Fire in belly as opposition square up to ANC ahead of election

Candidates make hay from corruption scandals that have eroded party’s support base

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane addresses up to 25,000 supporters at the launch of the party’s election manifesto: he told them South Africa under Jacob Zuma was moving backwards, and that change was needed to ensure the delivery of basic services. Photograph: EPA/Kevin Sutherland

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane addresses up to 25,000 supporters at the launch of the party’s election manifesto: he told them South Africa under Jacob Zuma was moving backwards, and that change was needed to ensure the delivery of basic services. Photograph: EPA/Kevin Sutherland

 

South Africa’s two leading opposition parties got their local election campaigns off the ground in recent days, with both targeting the ruling party’s service delivery recorded and leadership to drum up voter support.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) both aim to wrestle control of Gauteng Province metros and the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay away from the African National Congress in the August 3rd poll.

If they can, it would be the first time in post-apartheid South Africa that cities outside the Western Cape Province were not controlled by the ANC, which has ruled eight of the nine provinces continually since 1994.

In recent years the party has been dogged by corruption and incompetence scandals that stretch right up to the country’s president, Jacob Zuma. Collectively, they have begun to erode the former liberation movement’s support base.

Broken oath

Only last month South Africa’s top court ruled that Mr Zuma had broken his oath of office to respect and uphold the constitution by failing to adhere to recommendations made by a corruption watchdog body, the public protector.

Despite this, and numerous other scandals dogging the president, the ANC’s leaders have decided to keep Mr Zuma at the helm for these elections at least, as they fear fracturing the party’s support base even further by trying to remove him.

On Saturday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane addressed up to 25,000 supporters in Johannesburg, telling them South Africa under Mr Zuma was moving backwards, and that change was needed to ensure the delivery of basic services.

Mr Maimane said the DA recognised that small businesses created jobs, not government, and the party would create jobs by attracting and supporting new small businesses across the country.

“This begins with fixing the basics – making your area clean and safe, with good affordable transport, high-speed internet and stable electricity and water supply,” he said at the party’s manifesto launch at the Rand Stadium.

The DA’s superior service delivery recorded in Western Cape municipalities should be viewed by voters as proof the party could deliver elsewhere in South Africa. It is also the first time the DA has faced into a poll with a black South African as its leader; a development it hopes will dispel its image as a white-run party.

With the EFF to launch its election manifesto in the coming days, the party’s president Julius Malema’s has toured Gauteng’s poorest townships last week, attacking municipalities run by the ANC where they hurt most: their housing and service delivery record.

Mr Malema has called on voters to put his party in power so they can expose “corrupt ANC councillors” at municipalities across the country.

Threat of violence

A former ANC youth league leader who was thrown out of the ruling party in 2012, Mr Malema is well known for his fiery speeches calling for revolution, and they are popular with many of South Africa’s desperate, unemployed youth.

And, it seems inflammatory remarks will be a hallmark of the EFF’s coming election campaign, with Mr Malema publicly warning the ANC recently that if it continues to respond violently to peaceful protests they will respond in kind.

During an episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, which is scheduled to be aired Sunday evening, Mr Malema reportedly tells interviewer Jonah Hull: “We will run out of patience very soon and we will remove this government through the barrel of a gun.”

Mr Hull asks Mr Malema to clarify this, saying: “When you say you are willing to take up arms, that’s what you mean? Literally. Against the government?”

Mr Malema responds: “Yeah, literally. I mean it literally. We are not scared. We are not going to have a government that disrespects us.”