The grave of black consciousness hero Steve Biko was the site of the ongoing battle for control of the Eastern Cape’s major municipalities yesterday as both the ANC and leaders from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) visited it with their followers.
The Eastern Cape has become hugely important for the three main political parties in the country, with both the Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros up for the taking in next year’s local government elections.
Yesterday marked what is informally known as Biko Day because Biko was killed on September 12 1977.
The ANC, DA and EFF all held rallies and marches in East London and Port Elizabeth, the main centres for the two metros.
Yesterday, EFF leader Julius Malema tore into the ANC, with neither President Jacob Zuma nor his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, spared any ridicule.
The ANC in the morning held a walk to Biko’s grave. It was later visited by Malema, along with Biko’s widow, Ntsiki Biko, a few hours later.
At the beginning of the week, a march was led by Ramaphosa from King William’s Town to Bisho to commemorate the Bisho massacre.
Not to be outdone, the DA launched its campaign to gain control of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro from the ANC in Port Elizabeth yesterday. The party used the event to officially introduce its mayoral candidate, Athol Trollip.
The DA will hold a rally today at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane in East London.
The city falls under the second hotly contested metro, Buffalo City, which includes East London.
Malema, speaking during his rally in King William’s Town to celebrate the life and times of Steve Biko, implored thousands of his supporters to vote the ANC out of the Buffalo City council.
He declared the metro the home of the EFF and lashed out at ANC leaders who stand accused of stealing R5.9 million from the metro’s coffers during former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013.
“The only thing they [Buffalo City ANC leaders] know is to steal your money. Here in Buffalo City, it’s worse … They are the most corrupt people. They even steal during funerals.
“When we are busy mourning for Mandela, they are busy looking at how much they can steal. We are mourning; they are not. They are making money because that is what they are there for – to steal.”
The former Buffalo City mayor, the speaker and deputy speaker, and an ANC regional leader are currently on trial for fraud relating to monies meant for the memorial service event of the former president.
Malema said ANC leaders in the city were richer than the municipality itself and converted the city’s public purse into their personal one, while there was no water or electricity, and people had no jobs.
“When we say we have taken over Buffalo City, we are not joking.
“Many of you here are very young. You must be at the forefront of campaigning for the EFF here. You can’t be defeated by those old people from the ANC,” he said.
Malema said Ramaphosa and the ANC, which had never commemorated the Bisho massacre before, were scared of the EFF and had decided to come to Bisho because Malema’s party was coming to town.