The spectacle of politics, version 2019 elections, is drawing to a close after weeks of politicians handing out T-shirts, posing for photo opportunities and using any and every means and moment to schmooze potential voters. A final campaigning crescendo unfolds at the weekend in Soweto, where the DA holds its Phetogo, or “Change”, rally, the ANC its Siyanqoba – “We are winning” – event and EFF its final campaign trail rally dubbed “Tshela Thupa”, loosely translated as the whipping to come. The IFP picked Ulundi for its Sizonqoba, “We will win” electioneering closing event. But has it been enough?
Election campaign trails hold curious twists and turns. And along the way Workers’ Day and Freedom Day offered productive pit stops.
The official government Freedom Day event in Makhanda, effectively turned into an ANC event with party T-shirts, regalia and song. And the DA Workers’ Day Cape Town rally was a key electioneering platform – a job in every home has been a central DA election message – with leader Mmusi Maimane and Western Cape premier candidate Alan Winde, who’s been around the province pressing flesh already for weeks.
Many promises have been made on the campaign trail. Jobs and housing have featured large – and for the EFF, also land, a subject largely left untouched by the DA and ANC. But details are mostly missing.
While the DA promises a job in every home, the qualitative details are wanting. A job at what income and conditions, is the question, particularly as the DA is opposed to the minimum wage of R20 an hour and proposes cutting regulation in favour of business. Also unclear is where the money would come from to fund matriculants for a year’s work experience under what the DA calls a voluntary “national civilian service”.
The ANC’s own job creation rhetoric has morphed from jobs to job opportunities, or a placement of anything from three to 12 months, as the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 37 %on the expanded definition including those too discouraged to even try looking for a job, according to Statistics South Africa in February 2019.
And as the ANC has promised one million houses when President Cyril Ramaphosa sporting his party president hat addressed residents of Alexandra on 11 April after days of protests. It remains unclear how this would be achieved. Official statistics show the government built a total of 3,3-million homes across South Africa between 1994 and December 2018. And none of the underlying factors from finance, regulation to the public servants have changed in any way to allow for such a stepped-up housing delivery.
But as the election campaigning stepped up, so have the coincidences of a series of ANC government announcements, offering a smorgasbord of ministerial project launches.
Seven months after Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa paid a special visit to House 802 in Brandfort, Free State, where apartheid government for years banished struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the minister returned for another special visit.
In September 2018 the aim had been to “provide an update on the restorations and development of the site; express the government’s intention to declare the Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Brandfort House, a national heritage site; and to unveil the artistic impression of the restored site and museum” some 10 months after a new implementing agent was appointed, according to an official statement.
On 24 April Mthethwa, according to a departmental statement, returned“to introduce the newly appointed contractor to the community and stakeholders to commence with renovation and construction of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s house…”
The minister dismissed this was electioneering during a briefing broadcast live on eNCA.“We said last year we are going to do it. At that time we didn’t even know when the elections were… We are not perturbed about people saying it’s politicking.”
Mthethwa has had a busy diary, including on Tuesday evening publicly declaring 19 heritage sites in Cape Town’s historic Bo-Kaap. Residents there have been fighting gentrification and the accompanying rates increases by the DA-run city council, which has put under pressure and even displaced long-standing residents. “Because of him (Mthethwa) and the ANC, the Bo-Kaap will not be lost,” the Western Cape ANC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The arts and culture minister has not been alone in stepping it up.
Human Settlements Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo on 5 April launched what was officially dubbed the “innovative housing waiting list” in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom in late March launched “an iconic monument of the Map of Africa” as part of efforts to boost tourism at the Agulhas National Park. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekgaon 12 March handed over “more than 40 toilets” to KwaZulu-Natal school”, according to an official statement, as part of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education Initiative (SAFE) which President Cyril Ramaphosa launched in August 2018 as a public-private partnership.
Ramaphosa, like his deputy David “DD” Mabuza, has handed over title deeds in several land claim settlements, while the president also got hauled out to cut the ribbons at a new Tshwane car manufacturing line or passenger trains in Cape Town.
Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant late last month launched youth training programmes valued at R7,9-billion over the next three to four years in KwaZulu-Natal. And Transport Minister Blade Nzimande in the past three weeks not only promised working, efficient people’s trains – only 35 would be on the tracks by 2020, according to the official blurb on the ultimately just over 7,200 such trains to be delivered in the next 20 years – but also a new recapitalisation deal for the taxi industry to increase allowances for the scrapping of old vehicles from R91,100 to R124,000 per taxi.
But it’s not as if the DA where it governs has been slacking. Winde as the premier candidate has not missed a beat from seizing photo opportunities, even with neighbourhood watches, to launching a billboard, or two. On Tuesday it was “Keep corruption out of the Western Cape”. That’s to go with the posters “Keep the ANC EFF out. Vote DA” that have recently sprung up as electioneering his the final, frantic stepped up pace.
Elsewhere, the opposition DA has been focusing on carefully choreographed photo opportunity optics sharply critical of the ANC: a “Keep the lights on” protest outside Eskom’s Megawatt Park head office, or the “Cost of living” demonstration outside the Bryntirion ministerial residential complex in Tshwane to highlight how “rich and connected ANC politicians are shielded from the everyday struggle of rising food, electricity and fuel costs…”
In a dig at the ANC right in its birthplace of Bloemfontein, on Monday Maimane put up a bust of a Gupta brother at the Wesleyan church where the ANC was founded in 1912, and which was a focus of the governing party’s centenary celebrations.
Maimane’s messaging is to portray the ANC as a whole is corrupt – and the elections as making an alternate choice. Or as he put it according to a prepared speech: “It will mean turning your back on the party of the struggle – the party of your parents – and choosing a government that you might not have thought possible a few years ago. I know this is not easy. For many of you, the ANC is like family – it’s almost part of your identity. But that party doesn’t exist any longer…”
For the DA, criticism of the ANC is key to breaking Ramaphoria, and giving Ramaphosa the benefit of the doubt that he’ll clean up both in state and party. It’s that sentiment, or careful calculation depending on who is speaking, that has many like stalwart Mavuso Msimang arguing for a vote for the ANC, even as the renewal remains an unfinished project.
When at Maimane’s alternate state of the nation address in February 2019 a diplomat told him many business people had indicated they were prepared to give the ANC a chance, and even shift their votes, there was that missed beat before the DA leader got back on the party election narrative of the ANC’s broken bus – and how changing a driver, or president, isn’t changing the broken bus.
Meanwhile, it’s been the EFF that publicly consistently has described itself as the government-in-waiting. Much of its election action has unfolded on social media, but also on the streets under the election motto of “Our land and jobs now”. In the last week of April, three service delivery marches attracting thousands of supporters dressed in red took place in Mangaung, the Free State’s Matijhabeng council and eThekwini, where the protest turn out seems to indicate support much stepped up from the relatively low previous polling in KwaZulu-Natal. These demonstrations followed the 18 April women’s march to Constitution Hill against gender violence.
On Workers’ Day, EFF leader Julius Malema, styled in party electioneering rhetoric as “son of the soil”, headed a double bill: Alexandra, Johannesburg, in the morning and Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, in the early afternoon. While Malema has addressed meetings from provincial manifesto launches to student gatherings, he is on record saying volunteers and the party’s “ground forces” have been mobilising registered voters to turn out on election day.
The campaign trail has been relentless. From old age homes, schools, door-to-door campaigns in shacklands and curated interactions with professionals, entrepreneurs and others. Despite a hectic pace of election campaigning, it’s been curiously flat and uninspiring in many ways that no selfie in front of a voting pledge wall can remedy.
If there is any agreement between political parties, and also pollsters, commentators and analysts, it is that this 2019 election has seen higher levels of voter fluidity and changes of mind. And unlike previous elections, the percentage of undecided voters ranges between 13% to 28% – a significant swing vote on the day.
Regardless of weeks of the spectacle of electioneering politics, the question of where that cross is made on the ballot, and by how many registered voters, will only be answered after the voting stations close on 8 May. DM
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No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.
Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It’s the only thing that grew under Moyane’s tenure… the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You – the South African taxpayer.
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