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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora