AS THE African National Congress (ANC) prepares to launch its election manifesto in the hotly contested Nelson Mandela Bay, it has emerged that the Democratic Alliance (DA) has made overtures to the United Front (UF).
The UF is expected to field independent candidates to contest the August 3 election.
The metro will be hotly contested after the ANC narrowly hung on to it in the 2011 local elections, obtaining just 51.9% of the vote.
The DA posted a strong showing in that election, with 40.13%, while smaller parties such as the Congress of the People trailed with 4.9%. The ANC was forced to bring in mayor Danny Jordaan to take the reins after a string of failed mayorships and years of political instability in the administration of the metro.
Whether this move is enough to turn the tide for the governing party will be tested in August, however, as a host of new players on the scene may disrupt the DA’s ambition of winning the metro outright. They include the UF and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
According to two sources close to the process, leaders affiliated to the UF had been approached by senior national leaders of the DA to canvass its attitude on a possible coalition. It is understood that polling had shown that the UF could take up to 24% of the vote.
Port Elizabeth is a stronghold of expelled Congress of South African Trade Unions affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), which initiated the formation of the UF.
DA mayoral candidate Athol Trollip on Thursday said he could not speak on authority about the UF, but added that it would be a “big factor” in Port Elizabeth due to Numsa’s strong membership base in the motor sector based there.
However, he said, the DA was in discussions with all political parties including the EFF, for co-operation ahead of elections, on election day and possibly thereafter.
Parties were also co-operating to ensure that the elections were free and fair, and to provide training to party agents, he said.
The ANC was set to face a tough ride in the metro due to the many factors stacked against it, Mr Trollip said, including its track record, infighting and recent scandals such as the Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla.
Mr Trollip said the DA trend of 48% was on the rise and the ANC’s percentage was on a downward swing. The DA hoped to win the metro outright and would only talk coalition after the results were announced, he said.
While the UF is seen as a factor in the elections and a potential king-maker, it has its own internal issues to iron out including who to field as a mayoral candidate.
Activist Fieldmore Mapeto said the UF had been approached by not one organisation only, but many including parties, ratepayers associations and churches. According to insiders, the UF faces tough choices if it emerges as a kingmaker. For instance, it may have to choose between alliances with the ANC or the DA, both seen as unpalatable.
But Mr Mapeto said the UF was “very active” in 21 of the 60 wards and was holding meetings in these wards to select a candidate. Potential candidates have been identified, but he was unable as yet to name them. A final selection was likely to be made next week, he said.