Cape Town – The ANC in the Western Cape admits rifts within its provincial structures contributed to the party’s dismal performance at the polls.
The DA faced challenges in several municipalities across the province with acts of defiance from its councillors and various motions of no confidence in its mayors as well as investigations by the Hawks into allegations of corruption. But still the ANC failed to make inroads into DA strongholds and flip its support base.
The ANC in the province hasn’t been without challenges of its own. The past few years has seen the expulsion of provincial chairperson Marius Fransman in 2016, to the disbandment and reinstatement of the Dullah Omar region in 2017, and the failure to hold a provincial general council to elect Fransman’s replacement, and the pre-election list conferences having to be redone.
Analysts have attributed the province’s poor performance and failure to restore voter confidence to what has happened to the party nationally.
The party saw a drop from winning 32.8% of the vote in 2014 in the province to 28.6% in the 2019 elections.
Even parachuting former premier and ambassador for the country in the US, Ebrahim Rasool, in to head up the province’s election campaign failed to secure enough votes.
“If the truth be told, we ran the election without the full participation of our structures,” said Rasool.
“I kept speaking about our 15 000 volunteers, that was like an add-on militia to do the work of the elections. Those were not our members, as branch members going out, they were under the command of your local election team co-ordinator.
“We grafted onto the structure a volunteer force to keep the ANC going to the doors while our structures were busy with list conferences and disputes and those kind of issues. We needed to get on with elections and at the end of the day, we got caught out. It was a brave and courageous effort, but we got caught out. You can’t operate without branches or regions being fully involved.”
Provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said: “We are perplexed by the result. We are worried our African base did not come out in their numbers because of the weather. I have already instructed the election structures to do assessments on this.”
University of the Western Cape political analyst Cherrel Africa said the Western Cape ANC’s inability to retake power in the province wasn’t just the provincial structure’s fault.
“The reality is the ANC’s ability to win back the Western Cape will mean a lot needs to be done at a national level. So yes, there are provincial problems, but voters watch more what is happening on the national stage,” she said.
“The fallout of the last nine years under former president Jacob Zuma and the negative perceptions around national developments played a role. There is a limit to what the provincial structure can do. Yes, they do need to get their house in order, but any developments nationally will continue to damage the brand of the ANC.
“And there has always been a ceiling in the Western Cape, they have never managed to get over the 50%. You would need a very dramatic change both at a national level and provincially for them to turn it around, and the likelihood at this point is quite slim, but they still have an important role to play.”
Rasool said the ANC now needed to become an effective opposition in the legislature to challenge the DA.
Describing the kind of leader needed to head the party in the province, Rasool said: “It is someone with enough maturity, enough experience with a fighting spirit, that is not overwhelmed by the personalities in front of him, but is driven by issues on the ground.
“I think you will need a team more than you will need a face. I don’t think there is a strong personality that jumps up within that legislature, and when you don’t have that, you have to get a team.”
With the current acting provincial chairperson and leader of the opposition, Khaya Magaxa scheduled to head to National Parliament and no clear date for a meeting to elect his replacement has been set.