News / Africa

    Analysts Say Ruling African National Congress Facing Electoral Defeat in Traditional Stronghold

    Port Elizabeth could make political history during upcoming local government elections by rejecting ANC rule

    This is Part 4 of a 5-part series: Municipal Elections in South Africa
    Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

    “We’re basically dysfunctional. If we weren’t so close to an election, I would be calling for us to be placed under administration [of central government],” said Leon de Villiers, veteran Port Elizabeth city councilor.

    Opposition candidate for mayor of Port Elizabeth, Leon de Villiers
    Opposition candidate for mayor of Port Elizabeth, Leon de Villiers


    He’s running for mayor of the city for main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance [DA]. Port Elizabeth, on South Africa’s south coast, is the hub of the country’s motor industry and the economic heartbeat of the largely impoverished Eastern Cape province.

    It forms the primary part of a municipal region called Nelson Mandela Bay, named in honor of South Africa’s legendary former president, who, like many ANC stalwarts, was born in the Eastern Cape. The region once formed the bedrock of the anti-apartheid struggle.

    Port Elizabeth has been under the control of the ANC since the nation’s first local government elections in 1995. But de Villiers says the city is now a “dishonor” to Mandela, the man who did so much to overthrow white minority rule.

    “Since 2009, we have been plunged into a complete financial crisis. We are for all intents and purposes bankrupt,” he said.

    ‘Everything’s stagnating’

    De Villiers blames the crisis largely on massive costs and “poor budgeting and mismanagement” by the ANC relating to South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 soccer World Cup. Port Elizabeth, as one of the competition’s centers, spent 3.4 billion rands [US$ 500 million] to upgrade the city for the world’s biggest sports tournament.Much of the costs were unforeseen, and local ratepayers have had to pay almost 880 million rands [US$ 132 million] towards the debt.

    The ANC says it’s responsible for much of the development of the beachfront playground of Port Elizabeth in recent years
    The ANC says it’s responsible for much of the development of the beachfront playground of Port Elizabeth in recent years


    De Villiers said the World Cup left Port Elizabeth with arguably one of the best sports stadiums in the world, but at a “huge” price.

    It’s a wonderful facility, he said, but unfortunately the city paid 578 million rands [US$ 86 million] more for it than originally expected. “All this cost has left us with a cash crisis. The minute one is as cash strapped as we are now, service delivery plunges to an all-time low.”

    As a result of the World Cup “overspend,” de Villiers added, Port Elizabeth no longer had any money to deliver essential services, such as water, electricity and housing, to its citizens. He added, “We’re not maintaining our parks, we’re not maintaining our cemeteries; we’re not maintaining our sewerage works.… Health services, roads maintenance – everything’s stagnating.”

    Approached for reaction, ANC provincial local government minister Mlibo Qoboshiyane said he wasn’t able to comment on municipal issues in Port Elizabeth. He referred VOA to the regional secretary of the ANC in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, Zandisile Qupe.

    ANC mayor of Port Elizabeth Zanoxolo Wayile, center, blows a trumpet before the 2010 soccer World Cup… The DA blames costs associated with the tournament for a financial crisis in the city
    ANC mayor of Port Elizabeth Zanoxolo Wayile, center, blows a trumpet before the 2010 soccer World Cup… The DA blames costs associated with the tournament for a financial crisis in the city


    But repeated calls to him went unanswered and he did not return any of the numerous messages left for him requesting comment.

    Qupe was however recently quoted in Port Elizabeth’s Township Times newspaper as saying, “People of the metro don’t have to read about what the ANC has done; they can see it for themselves. I’m confident the ANC will once again be given the mandate to govern.”

    The newspaper reported that while the ANC city council had instituted “small scale development” in Port Elizabeth in recent years, such as tarred roads in townships, houses it had built for poor people were now “caving in” and many residents did not have electricity and toilets.

    Drought

    The ANC municipality has also been criticized for its response to a drought that’s been afflicting Nelson Mandela Bay for the past two years. Because of its “poor reaction” to the crisis, said de Villiers, Port Elizabeth’s taps could “run dry” very soon.

    The DA says the high costs of building the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium mean Port Elizabeth no longer has any money to deliver essential services
    The DA says the high costs of building the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium mean Port Elizabeth no longer has any money to deliver essential services


    The mayoral candidate warned, “If we run dry it will have a devastating effect on the economy of our area. It will hit our factories very badly; it will have a devastating effect on unemployment, which is already at very serious levels.”
    De Villiers said the ANC had “inexplicably” failed to take action to avert a disaster, despite several “emergency measures” being available to alleviate the drought.

    “We have excess water coming to us from the north, which is an area called the Gariep Dam, which is actually overflowing at the moment, and the excess water is running into the sea,” he declared. “To be able to harvest that water for this metro we need to put in additional pipes and treatment works here.”

    Opposition parties and Port Elizabeth residents say service delivery in the Eastern Cape has deteriorated dramatically under the ANC. This photograph shows a defaced road sign in the province, with vandals registering protest against poor roads in Cacadu
    Opposition parties and Port Elizabeth residents say service delivery in the Eastern Cape has deteriorated dramatically under the ANC. This photograph shows a defaced road sign in the province, with vandals registering protest against poor roads in Cacadu


    De Villiers explained that while the central government had given the Port Elizabeth municipality 450 million rands [US$ 67 million] towards this, another 350 million rands [US$ 52 million] was needed to bring the project to fruition. He added that the local authorities could also end the drought by establishing a desalinization plant to harvest and process seawater to make it potable.

    “We’ve got all the plans for it; we’ve got the location; we’ve had the environmental [impact] studies done; we just need the funding,” said de Villiers.

    But, instead of approaching private firms to partner with it, and to thereby provide the outstanding funds for either of these projects, he said, the ANC council had done “nothing.”

    DA sees opportunity

    As a result of the ANC’s “failures” in Port Elizabeth, the DA clearly regards the forthcoming polls as its best opportunity yet to snatch the city from the ruling party.

    ANC Eastern Cape local government minister Mlibo Qoboshiyane: not able to comment about local government issues in Port Elizabeth
    ANC Eastern Cape local government minister Mlibo Qoboshiyane: not able to comment about local government issues in Port Elizabeth


    “Our optimism is based firstly on the election results in 2009, where we had a general election and we reduced the support for the ANC in this metro by 20 percent,” de Villiers maintained.

    The DA mayoral candidate’s confidence isn’t misplaced, according to political analyst Marius Roodt, writing in the journal of the South African Institute of Race Relations. He pointed out that in 2009 ANC support had dropped to just over 50 percent of the vote in Port Elizabeth, from a previous high of over 70 percent.

    If the voting on May 18 follows this pattern, say observers, the DA will need to boost its support in the city by only a small margin and perhaps form an alliance with another minor opposition party in order to gain control of the municipality.

    The ANC said it had built many houses for Eastern Cape citizens over the past few years, but the DA says many of the homes have fallen down
    The ANC said it had built many houses for Eastern Cape citizens over the past few years, but the DA says many of the homes have fallen down


    De Villiers said the DA has also been “greatly encouraged” by its ability to deliver services in municipal regions it already controls in the Eastern Cape. “The best run municipality in the Eastern Cape is Baviaans; it’s had a DA mayor for 10 years,” he said.



    ANC shambles in Eastern Cape

    Ahead of the elections, the ANC in the Eastern Cape appears to be in disarray. Some party officials stand accused of plotting to murder senior ANC provincial leaders, as a result of political rivalry. Disgruntled ANC members, protesting against some of their party’s election policies, have stormed the ANC’s provincial headquarters, beating up a senior party representative and damaging ANC property.

    The ANC in Port Elizabeth points to improvements such as this new fire station as proof of its good work in the city
    The ANC in Port Elizabeth points to improvements such as this new fire station as proof of its good work in the city


    “In recent times the ANC here has tumbled down a slippery slide where the infighting in its own ranks has been unbelievably high,” said de Villiers. “Their indifferences have spilt into public, into council meetings. On one occasion we’ve even had 13 ANC councilors voting with the DA on certain resolutions that were taken – because there are people within the ANC who are concerned at…the lack of service delivery and the dysfunction of our administration.”

    But de Villiers insists the DA’s focus is less on the ANC and more on ending the “shambles” in Port Elizabeth. “We are not fighting the ANC, in my opinion,” he maintained. “As far as I am concerned, we are fighting poverty; we are fighting for good houses and we are fighting for decent service delivery, including [good] roads, etcetera.”

    DA leader Helen Zille at a pre-election rally in Port Elizabeth. The DA is convinced it’ll gain control of the city on May 18
    DA leader Helen Zille at a pre-election rally in Port Elizabeth. The DA is convinced it’ll gain control of the city on May 18


    If the DA triumphs on May 18, said de Villiers, its “number one challenge” will be to “fight poverty and create jobs.” Then, he said, the party “will immediately consolidate financial and human resources by appointing a competent municipal manger. Our appointments will not be done on political lines or as rewards for friends; we will do them simply on merit.”

    De Villiers added, “That manager’s brief will be to make sure that we have competent executive directors in place to take control of the city’s finances.”

    Roodt said should the ANC lose the biggest city in the Eastern Cape – the ruling party’s “spiritual and intellectual heartland” - to the DA, it “will be a further blow to the ANC's prestige.”

    The analyst continued, “While it is unlikely that any opposition party would manage to wrest control of the Eastern Cape away from the ANC in the foreseeable future, the presence of an efficient, well-run opposition-controlled metro in the province may make the party's supporters more amenable to voting for an opposition party. This will bode well for South African democracy and the country's future.”

    And, say other commentators, it could signal the beginning of the end of the ANC’s political hegemony in South Africa.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora