News / Africa

South Africa’s Biggest Political Parties Butt Heads in Continent’s Financial Center

Battle developing for control of Africa’s financial hub in next month’s South African municipal elections

Darren Taylor

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

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance [DA], is increasingly confident it will win control of the country’s biggest city in municipal elections scheduled for May 18.

If the DA indeed takes over management of the Johannesburg metropolitan area of almost eight million people, analysts say it will arguably be the greatest political defeat for the ruling African National Congress since it emerged victorious from the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

A DA election poster for the 2011 municipal elections. The opposition party is convinced it’ll capture South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg on May 18
A DA election poster for the 2011 municipal elections. The opposition party is convinced it’ll capture South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg on May 18


The ANC already suffered a major blow during South Africa’s previous local government elections in 2006, when the DA defeated it in the race to manage the country’s tourism heartland, Cape Town.

Five years ago, the DA garnered a mere 27 percent of the vote in Johannesburg but some analysts say an opposition triumph is now possible given the current “administrative chaos” in the ANC-run city council.

A billing crisis which mayor Amos Masondo has repeatedly dismissed as “not serious” has seen thousands of residents receiving massively inflated bills for municipal services. When they’ve refused to pay, the city council has cut their water and electricity.

Ahead of the elections, there’ve also been several violent protests in impoverished areas of Johannesburg against the city’s failure to provide adequate services to residents. And the streets have overflowed with refuse after a protracted strike by garbage collectors, who allege senior officials in their department are corrupt.

‘Excellence’ versus incompetence

The DA candidate for Johannesburg mayor, Mmusi Maimane, says his party is basing its strategy on its “excellent” record in the municipalities it already manages.

Johannesburg was hit by a strike by municipal workers that resulted in refuse piling up around the city just before the local government polls
Johannesburg was hit by a strike by municipal workers that resulted in refuse piling up around the city just before the local government polls


In recent years various independent local government monitoring agencies have rated DA-managed councils, including that of Cape Town, the best in service delivery.

“For the first time, this race (to control town and city councils) in South Africa is a significant one because now you’ve got two parties who are both in government in different municipalities, and voters have got the best choice and the best comparison between the two of them,” said Maimane.

The ANC says it has “vastly” improved the lives especially of Johannesburg’s poor millions by providing them with clean water, proper toilets and electricity.

But Maimane disagrees with the ANC’s claim. “Most people in Johannesburg aren’t getting these services. If they were, we would not have seen all these service delivery protests,” he said.

The ANC also says it has built thousands of “good quality” houses for poor residents since 2006. But the DA says many of these structures are “uninhabitable.” A party statement said the houses had been built with “poor infrastructure, no storm water drainage and poorly constructed sewerage.”

The DA’s candidate for mayor of Johannesburg is young businessman Mmusi Maimane
The DA’s candidate for mayor of Johannesburg is young businessman Mmusi Maimane


According to South Africa’s National Home Builders Registration Council, about US$ 9.5 billion will be needed to repair and in some cases rebuild more than 2.6 million badly constructed government houses, including in Johannesburg.

The city’s ANC spokesman, Dumisa Ntuli, did not respond to several requests from VOA for an interview, but he recently told The Star newspaper that the ruling party had “taken steps to improve its systems” in Johannesburg and was confident of retaining control of the city.

Maimane insisted Ntuli’s confidence is misplaced. “What is more difficult for the voter to swallow is that when service delivery doesn’t take place, city authorities say it’s because the city doesn’t have money or the resources for it. Yet the people see senior leaders living in opulence,” he stated.

Younger voters give opposition hope

Maimane said in past elections most South Africans have voted for ANC candidates, despite their poor service delivery records, just because they represented the party that freed their country from apartheid in 1994. But “things have changed,” he maintained. “When I look around, I see a younger voter constituency that isn’t as strongly concerned about the past but is concerned about the safety of their children and is concerned with living in good, well-managed cities.”

The ANC says it’s built many thousands of houses for poor people in Johannesburg, but the DA says many of these structures are falling apart
The ANC says it’s built many thousands of houses for poor people in Johannesburg, but the DA says many of these structures are falling apart


Maimane’s counting on votes from these South Africans to give him victory in Johannesburg on May 18. His message to them is that the ANC of today is “very different” from the party led by former president and human rights hero Nelson Mandela 17 years ago.

Even senior ANC members have been warning that the organization is becoming increasingly corrupt, saying some leaders are more focused on amassing personal wealth than on fulfilling Mandela’s vision of leading South Africa’s masses out of poverty.

“This is what made me shift (to the DA),” said Maimane. “I look at the past ANC leaders, their credibility, their moral strength, and I look at the current ANC leadership … and those aren’t the leaders we should look for.”

‘Black puppet for white masters’


The ANC insists its leaders are of the “highest caliber” and remain focused on developing all South Africans. The party says Maimane has “no chance” of capturing Johannesburg and has dismissed him as a “black puppet fronting for white masters.”

The DA candidate doesn’t flinch at this accusation, declaring, “If the ANC wants to clarify this issue of fronting, I’d like to propose that their mayoral candidate be someone I can sit down with and have a frank (public) debate with, so that when the voters go on May 18th to make their poll, that they can see quite clearly the contrast between the two candidates. That will be true integrity, in the eyes of voters.”

Maimane said as a member of a party that the ANC routinely claims represents “privileged white interests,” he’s used to being accused of “selling blacks out.” He responded that “those who are selling South Africans out are those who are misusing money that’s meant for poor people,” not him.

The ANC city council in Johannesburg insists it has developed the metro vastly in recent years
The ANC city council in Johannesburg insists it has developed the metro vastly in recent years


Maimane said “typical” ANC strategy is “to try to make elections about race, which they are not.” Yet the DA itself acknowledges that he’s been chosen to contest Johannesburg partly because he’s black and from South Africa’s largest township, Soweto, where hundreds of thousands of black votes are up for grabs.

Yet although he’s black, Maimane couldn’t be more different from the poor, uneducated and unemployed majority in Soweto. The successful businessman has a Masters degree in theology, is studying for a Masters in public administration and speaks seven languages.

Referring to ANC leaders such as the party’s controversial Youth League president Julius Malema, the DA says the ANC isn’t the quality political organization it once was
Referring to ANC leaders such as the party’s controversial Youth League president Julius Malema, the DA says the ANC isn’t the quality political organization it once was


While the DA maintains Maimane’s obvious intellect will make him an ideal mayor, the ANC presents it as evidence that he’s “out of touch” with most voters and can’t relate to the poor.

‘Too young, too inexperienced’


Maimane’s age is another factor in the election. He’s only 30 years old. Analysts say the DA, in choosing him as its candidate for Johannesburg, is obviously targeting the many young voters. But the ANC uses Maimane’s youth to attack him, saying he’s too “inexperienced” to be mayor.

He responded, “When (the ANC’s) Amos Masondo took over the city of Johannesburg, he had never been in a city council in his life. Why should it be that when we look to invest in talent and skills, that is the ANC’s response?”

Maimane continued, “The DA has asked me, a competent individual, to stand as its mayoral candidate in Johannesburg. That honor would never happen within the ANC because the ANC reserves its positions for people who have been in the party for too long; it doesn’t matter how competent or incompetent they could be.”

Analysts say the ANC still has a lot of support in Johannesburg, despite the party’s notable failures in the city
Analysts say the ANC still has a lot of support in Johannesburg, despite the party’s notable failures in the city

He said if he becomes mayor, he’ll surround himself with the “best” officials and experts to get the “best advice” about running Johannesburg.

Maimane stressed that he’s willing to give his life “to live in a democracy that doesn’t reflect the racial barriers of this country but really interrogates the issues of service delivery, the issues of society.”

He added, “I really believe that day is coming, as more and more South Africans say, ‘we can vote for such and such a person not because he or she is white, black, colored or Indian, but because he or she is the most skilled person for the job.’ It’s these new South Africans who are going to set the political agenda in the future.”

That, more than anything else, said Maimane, gives him hope that he’ll pull off an election victory that analysts say would be one of the most significant political events in South Africa’s recent history.


You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid