HUMAN Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale arrived in the Eastern Cape yesterday, a province that those hoping to unseat President Jacob Zuma are keen to control.
Mr Sexwale is a regular visitor to the province either on government business or in his other capacities, such as his new one: undeclared presidential campaigner.
He was in Tsolo yesterday to participate in the Faith Healer’s Church anniversary celebrations. Local journalists were curious to find out if he would confirm he was in the running for the African National Congress (ANC) presidency ahead of the December Mangaung elections. However, they were disappointed when he gave a typically ambiguous response.
A reporter said Mr Sexwale preferred to say he was only in the Eastern Cape to do government work. But there is more to the visit, says a local politician, insisting that Mr Sexwale is heavily invested in the Eastern Cape. “He is always here, launching housing projects and things like that.”
Such government initiatives give him a platform on which to campaign. On the political front, East London seems happy, comfortable territory for Mr Sexwale. The regional executive elected two months ago is one of those that have a serious bout of ABZ — the Anything But Zuma sentiment.
Elected leaders headed by chairwoman Zukiswa Faku dislike Mr Zuma, it is whispered. Their issue ? They were overlooked when a team of people to lead the local municipality was put together before last year’s local elections.
But they went on to win regional ANC elections in March, an event that created two centres of power. So there is now a powerful group that runs the party in the province, and another one — favoured by Luthuli House — in charge of the municipality. The anti-Zuma sentiment is growing in the Eastern Cape’s metropolitan areas. A TNS survey released at the weekend showed that Mr Zuma enjoyed only 45% approval ratings in East London, while his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe is backed by 64% of those polled.
The Eastern Cape, the second biggest of the ANC after KwaZulu-Natal, is considered the home of the ANC, and to some within the ruling party Mr Zuma’s presidency symbolises the waning of the province’s influence in the ANC.
KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Zuma’s home province, has 244900 members, or 23,8% of the ANC’s total membership. The Eastern Cape is a close second, with 225597 members. This means the provinces will have big delegations to the conference in Mangaung.
KwaZulu-Natal, which re-elected leaders sympathetic to Mr Zuma at the weekend, is expected to pull other provinces into voting for Mr Zuma again. The Eastern Cape, on the other hand, is where the ABZ sentiment could potentially grow and draw other provinces eager for change. However, unlike KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, is not singing from the proverbial hymn book ahead of Mangaung.
Mr Zuma still has some appeal, and his campaigners have not given up on the province.
Mr Zuma’s approval rating of 39% in Port Elizabeth makes his stronger than Mr Motlanthe’s 37%. While such surveys are not specifically polling ANC branch delegates to Mangaung, they give an indication of leaders’ broader appeal in society. Mr Zuma’s ally, Nceba Faku, was re-elected chairman in Nelson Mandela Bay last month, giving the pro-Zuma camp another region in the bag.
Mr Zuma could also bank on the OR Tambo region, which holds leadership elections on May 25. This region sent the biggest delegation to the Polokwane conference five years ago, and it backed Mr Zuma.
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=171729