News / Africa

    Tension in South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ Ahead of Local Government Polls

    Divided Cape Town set for one of the most significant municipal elections

    Darren Taylor

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

    Cape Town, on South Africa’s West Coast, is universally praised as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The famous landmark of Table Mountain looms over the metropolis, an emerald green peninsula sliding into the Atlantic Ocean, the city divided into colorful old suburbs, ancient castles, public gardens, vineyards and pristine beaches.

    Political analysts say the battle for Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, will arguably be the most intriguing contest in the upcoming local government elections in South Africa
    Political analysts say the battle for Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, will arguably be the most intriguing contest in the upcoming local government elections in South Africa


    But political analysts say there’ll be nothing pretty about the fight between the ruling African National Congress [ANC] and the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance [DA], for control of Cape Town in local government elections on May 18.

    In the previous municipal polls in 2006, the DA defeated the ANC in the “Mother City” – so called because in the 1600s it was the first town to be established in South Africa. The ANC dominates politics in the rest of the country, but ever since the nation’s first democratic elections in 1994 it has struggled for votes in the Western Cape.

    ANC claims credit for advances in Cape Town


    According to the DA, when it took over management of Cape Town five years ago, the city was “in decline” as a result of ANC “mismanagement.” The DA says the ANC council had spent only 60 percent of its budget, revenue collection had “collapsed” and essential services such as policing and health were “understaffed and inadequately equipped.”

    In Cape Town, it’s a shootout between the main opposition party, the DA, and the ANC, for control of South Africa’s tourism hub
    In Cape Town, it’s a shootout between the main opposition party, the DA, and the ANC, for control of South Africa’s tourism hub


    The DA says its “progressive” policies corrected all of this, to the extent that Cape Town is today recognized by several independent local government monitors as the most efficient city in South Africa.

    But ANC city councilor Xolani Sotashe insisted that the improvements are the result of ANC programs that the DA took over and implemented from 2006 until now. “The programs that they are actually boasting about today are the programs that are coming all the way from the ANC administration,” he said.

    The DA said it’s delivered tens of thousands of houses in Cape Town townships over the past few years. Sotashe responded, “I can tell you right now the DA has not delivered a single house. All the housing deliveries they are talking about now were planned… by the ANC government.”

    Tension in South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ Ahead of Local Government Polls
    Tension in South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ Ahead of Local Government Polls


    But Cherrel Africa, local government expert at the University of the Western Cape, said the DA has undoubtedly “made some advances and there are certain aspects where they’ve shown they are more efficient than the ANC.” She did, however, agree with Sotashe that often the DA is “picking up on preexisting programs [initiated by the ANC government].”

    The ANC councilor said another reason for the DA’s good performance in Cape Town is support from the national ANC government. “The DA city council is using billions of rands of national government money for development. Then at the end of the day they go and lie to people and say that as the DA in the city of Cape Town, this is what they are doing for the people,” he said.

    The DA insists that it has funded most improvements in Cape Town from its own funds, and that while it has used some national money for certain projects, it argues that these still require good management – something that it says was “missing” under the previous ANC municipality.

    DA ‘doesn’t care about the poor’


    The DA says it’s spent more than 450 million rands [US$ 67 million] on upgrading the impoverished black township of Khayelitsha, but Sotashe said the DA “represents the white minority’s views” in Cape Town and is “racist.”

    Under the leadership of Helen Zille, the DA says Cape Town has thrived, with some independent local government monitors declaring the city to be top in South Africa at service delivery
    Under the leadership of Helen Zille, the DA says Cape Town has thrived, with some independent local government monitors declaring the city to be top in South Africa at service delivery


    Africa said the DA in the city has made two “glaring mistakes” that have opened it up to such accusations. First, it built unenclosed toilets for the black residents of Makhaza district; and second, it evicted scores of black squatters from an area near the affluent and mostly white suburb of Hout Bay. She said the DA managed these incidents “very badly,” although there’s still a “reservoir of positive sentiment” surrounding the DA in Cape Town.

    The local government expert said the ANC’s labeling of the DA as racist and using that as part of its campaign strategy is “really problematic, because I think voting patterns in the Western Cape [are] not best explained by the racial motivations of voters.”

    Africa is convinced the polls are about whether or not a particular party will be able to provide citizens with quality municipal services, such as good housing and clean water. “For the ordinary voter it’s about those issues, it’s about service delivery; it’s about the issues that affect people’s lives.”

    But other observers insist that race will play a big part in the battle for Cape Town. The Western Cape province, where Cape Town is the largest city, is home to most of South Africa’s four and a half million colored or mixed race people. Certain analysts say whichever party gets the so-called “colored vote” will win the city.

    The ANC is confident of snatching the city away from the DA on May 18
    The ANC is confident of snatching the city away from the DA on May 18


    But Cherrel Africa dismissed the “colored vote” as a “myth.”

    She said previous elections in the Western Cape – the only province in South Africa where three different political parties, namely the now defunct and mostly white National Party, the ANC with its black majority support and the racially diverse DA have been in power at different times since 1994 – have shown that most coloreds don’t vote based purely on race.

    “Certainly the Western Cape is very, very different. In this province, in elections generally, voters reward and punish parties based on political developments [not based on race],” said Africa.

    Contest between colored mayoral candidates


    Yet the ANC’s and the DA’s pursuit of colored support is clear in their choice of candidates for mayor. Both parties have selected high-profile colored political leaders – Tony Ehrenreich, the chief of the Congress of South African Trade Unions in the Western Cape in the case of the ANC, and veteran member of parliament Patricia de Lille in the case of the DA.

    The DA’s choice for mayor of Cape Town is Member of Parliament Patricia de Lille
    The DA’s choice for mayor of Cape Town is Member of Parliament Patricia de Lille

    “They’re very, very strong candidates and they’re very good strategic choices from both political parties. So unfortunately it does become a contest between those two,” said Africa.

    According to her, both Ehrenreich and de Lille have “mass appeal,” with the ANC candidate – who insists on living in a working class neighborhood and driving an old car – perhaps having a “populist edge.”

    “He is a very credible and formidable opponent. The only problem [for the ANC] is that he’s one individual, and voters have observed a lot of division within the ANC provincially. So as an individual, I’m not sure that he’d be able to swing it for the ANC,” said Africa.

    The ANC is sure that its candidate, veteran union leader Tony Ehrenreich, will be the next mayor of Cape Town
    The ANC is sure that its candidate, veteran union leader Tony Ehrenreich, will be the next mayor of Cape Town

    In the build-up to these elections, the ruling party in the Western Cape has been wracked by infighting, with a number of rival ANC groups arguing about leadership positions in the organization.

    Africa said this has left “ANC voters in the Western Cape… quite disillusioned” and she suspects that many won’t vote on May 18. She told VOA, “They’re not necessarily switching to the DA, but because they’re opting out (of the polls), it has the effect of boosting the DA’s numbers.”

    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