Cape Town –
It’s down to the wire in the chase for May 7 votes as election campaigns wind up with a focus on Gauteng, the country’s hotly-contested economic heartland, where the ANC, DA, and the Economic Freedom Fighters host their final rallies next weekend.
On Monday, the IFP holds its Siyanqoba rally at Ezinqoleni in the Ugu municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, while United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa two days ago held a final campaign rally in Rustenburg, North-West, where his party has been actively canvassing on the strike-hit mine belt.
Although eyes are fixed on capturing votes in Gauteng – the province has the highest number of registered voters, with just over six million, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) – parties have moved to shore up their traditional bases.
DA leader Helen Zille returned to the Western Cape on Saturday for the “Western Cape Vote to Win” rally, telling supporters complacency was the enemy.
Having won by a cat’s whisker in 2009, with 51.46 percent, DA voting support come May 7 will be key to prove where the province’s residents agree with the blue machinery’s spin of governing better.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the province where the ANC won the largest number of votes in the 2009 elections, the party’s top officials and provincial leaders have spared no effort.
With some 5.1 million registered KwaZulu-Natal voters, in some ANC circles it is argued that potential losses in other provinces could be made up in that province. In 2009, this proved the case: an additional one million votes largely compensated for stagnation, or votes lost to then newcomer Cope, according to 2012 ANC Mangaung conference documents.
Mpumalanga, where the ANC enjoys polling support in the 80 percentage range, hosted the launch of the ANC election manifesto and President Jacob Zuma on the campaign trail amid claims of over 90 percent polling support.
Over the past few weeks party political leaders have criss-crossed the country, not only in search of votes, but also to re-connect with party faithfuls – sometimes to resolve local tensions and other times to show face in support of election manifestos.
Traversing the country, business people, professionals, train commuters, farmers and students have been targeted for special interactions, while door-to-door campaigns and mini-rallies have been backed by social media campaigns.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko yesterday visited Bushbuckrigde in Mpumalanga and addressed the party faithful on Freedom Day in an area where the DA scored just 0.8 percent in the 2009 elections, according to IEC statistics, against the ANC’s 91.41 percent.
Today, DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane, who has pounded the election trail across the province for weeks, launches with Zille the second Ayisafani advert in Mamelodi, Pretoria. In the 2009 elections, the DA scored 24.9 percent in the City of Tshwane, against the ANC’s 61.07 percent.
Meanwhile, the ANC has campaigned strongly in service community protest-hit Bekkersdal, Gauteng, and Zuma visited Malamulele, the Limpopo area which wants its own council.
Both areas have voted strongly in favour of the ANC: in 2009, the governing party received 76.47 percent in Westonaria, which includes Bekkersdal, and 88.99 percent in Thulamela, under which Malamulele falls, according to IEC statistics.
Zuma and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe also hit the campaign trail in Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth). In the 2009 elections, the ANC scored just 50.14 percent support there, and support levels did not increased much in the 2011 local government elections, IEC figures show.
Meanwhile, the EFF has pulled out all the stops to travel across the country. It has not been the easiest road for commander-in-chief Julius Malema, who has had to deal with scuffles at a University of KwaZulu-Natal election meeting and arson claims following the burning of a tent and broadcast equipment in Thokoza, Gauteng.
Fellow election debutant, AgangSA, has also hosted election events countrywide. Leader Mamphela Ramphele held a series of “interactions” with communities, but the party seems to have dropped off the radar since the short-lived merger with the DA.