Internal wrangling, power battles and money have compromised the ANC government’s stability, particularly at municipal level in the Eastern Cape, political commentator Aubrey Matshiqi said on Wednesday.
This is the core of the problem facing the ANC in the Eastern Cape, especially in its biggest region in the province, Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
In provinces such as the Eastern Cape, wealth creation and the creation of the middle class depended mainly on the state, Matshiqi told News24.
“What it means is that you need to access political power through the ANC in order to find access to or gain access to wealth through the government, through the province, or even through the municipality.
“Unfortunately for the citizens of the Eastern Cape what has happened is that internal wrangling, naked battles for power and money have compromised firstly the stability of the ANC [and] the stability of the ANC government.
“Battles are more intense at municipal levels because that is the last coach of the gravy train. If you miss that coach you are doomed,” he said.
With next year’s local government elections looming there was a fight for positions on the ANC’s list.
“Those who are outside need to be inside by being placed on, let’s say the list of the ANC, and therefore the internal battles in the ANC will continue. They may even become intensified.”
After years of infighting and instability in Nelson Mandela Bay the ANC’s senior officials decided to intervene.
Last year in December, the ANC disbanded its regional executive committee and put in place a 31-person task team to rebuild the party’s structures.
On Monday, the party announced it was replacing Nelson Mandela Bay metro mayor Benson Fihla with SA Football Association head Danny Jordaan.
Jordaan’s appointment makes him the fourth mayor in six years in a municipality whose ANC-led leadership has been marred by political instability and faction fighting.
In 2009, Nondumiso Maphazi was fired as Mandela Bay mayor and replaced by Zanoxolo Wayile, who in turn was fired in 2013 and replaced by Fihla.
Matshiqi said from the beginning of the second decade of democracy, the perception among Eastern Cape residents was that there was a gap between the morals of current ANC leaders and that of party stalwarts from the province, such as former president Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Oliver Tambo.
The Eastern Cape was plagued by two problems – endemic corruption and the under-performance of the state, particularly local government.
Matshiqi said he was starting to wonder if the corruption in the Eastern Cape was not becoming systemic.
The Nelson Mandela Bay metro was dealing with economic depression, which reinforced the gap between the expectations of citizens and the state’s ability to deliver.
‘The Xhosa Nostra is not in charge anymore’
Matshiqi referred to the early part of the second decade of democracy, when there was a suspicion within the ANC that the party would have acted earlier if it was not for the so-called “Xhosa Nostra”, a pun on the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia.
“The so-called Xhosa Nostra is not perceived to be in charge or in reality is not in charge anymore.
“But there was a time when people were saying the ANC is intervening everywhere else except the Eastern Cape because of the Xhosa Nostra factor,” he said.
Matshiqi said whether this was a credible analysis or not was another question, but what was important was that the perception was real.
There were warning signs for the ANC in the 2009 national elections, when the party got just under 70% of the vote in the province.
“Some ANC leaders, after their experience of campaigning in the Eastern Cape in the 2009 elections, raised the alarm bells about the Eastern Cape, particularly Nelson Mandela Bay,” he said.
ANC leaders told stories of spending more time being on the defensive about the province’s failure and under-performance than on plans for the future.
“So there were signs even after the 2009 elections of growing levels of discontent in the Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay. Those signs were visible,” he said.
This raised the question of why the ANC did not discuss the issues when doing its post-mortem and, if it did, why it did not intervene.
Matshiqi said the possibility was that the ANC was so used to single-party dominance that it thought this would never change.
Secondly, the coincidence between race and voting patterns may have lulled the ANC into believing it would maintain its dominance.
“Clearly coloured voters in the Eastern Cape, who in terms of struggle grammar are black, have been abandoning the ANC.
“That’s challenging this connection between race and voting patterns. But the greater problem in the ANC facing it is that it’s not only in coloured areas where support is falling in Nelson Mandela Bay. In so-called black areas, to a lesser extent, you have the same phenomenon,” he said.
This could be a reason for the party appointing Jordaan. But it could harm his reputation.
“The best Danny Jordaan can achieve is to show that the process of turning around Nelson Mandela Bay has begun and has begun effectively,” Matshiqi said.
This meant that the next battle was to make sure voters in the metro were willing to give Jordaan another chance to finish what he started.
However, he only had 12 months to live up to voters’ high expectations.
“More importantly if the negative feelings about the ANC… in Nelson Mandela Bay have become entrenched, that would mean that most voters have already made up their minds and nothing is going to change their minds over the next 12 months,” Matshiqi said.
Jordaan was coming to the job with a higher approval rating than the ruling party.
“But because of the image crisis of the ANC, his own reputation and image could be compromised.
“In other words by accepting this job he may compromise his approval rating. And in becoming associated with the under performance of the ANC, he might not have the pulling power that the ANC wants out of him,” he said.
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