KENNETH MOKGATLHE: ANC in North West set to face tough battle at the polls
The African National Congress (ANC) in the North West is up for a tight electoral competition for the first time since 1994. The ANC has been enjoying popularity, hegemony, and dominance in this province.
In 2016, a newly registered political party called Forum for Service Delivery (F4SD) contested local government elections and surprised everyone by getting 29 council seats in the North West, 1 in Mpumalanga, and 1 in the Free State.
Given the ANC’s incompetence, maladministration, and service delivery difficulties, it is not surprising that parties like F4SD will capitalise on the misfortunes of the ruling party in the North West.
Apart from the ANC’s governance strains, the oldest liberation organisation in Africa is facing its worst time since it was formed in 1912. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to note that the ANC is going into this poll limping, and they are definitely going to lose a few council seats.
The late Lucas Mangope’s UCDP died a natural death since the democratic regime and there is no hope of reviving pieces of what is left. However, there are people who still believe that Mangope did much better than the ANC in terms of building infrastructure, consolidation of the economy and improving the livelihoods of people generally.
While the media, parties, commentators, and others are focusing on who is going to take political control of metropolitans after 1 November, small parties such as F4SD with limited resources are investing those resources where they will definitely bear some fruit.
It is no longer easy for the ANC to secure rural votes because of the empty promises of the ANC. The people of the North West, just like those of other provinces, have been battling with the supply of water for many years, and to make matters worse, there seems to be no solution on the cards to this ever-growing humanitarian crisis.
Who can forget that the provincial government took control of 13 municipalities at the same time because they had failed to meet their financial obligations? Amongst those struggling municipalities were Madibeng, J.B. Marks, Mamusa, Lekwa-Teemane, Ratlou, Tswaing, and Ramotshere Moiloa. All these municipalities failed to meet service delivery demand, they could not even clean their own towns or collect refuse, and they sometimes failed to pay their own human resources.
It was reported in the mainstream media that South Africa’s biggest cheese factory in Lichtenburg was shutting down its production facility and moved to Kwazulu Natal province. The reason for the relocation was simply because the Ditsobotla Local Municipality failed to provide services as per its mandate for so many years. The company had been there without water being provided by the municipality, there was a lack of proper roads, and unreliable electricity. This, to a layperson, means that new investment will never reach this province because of the incompetence shown by those who are supposed to simply provide services.
It is for those reasons that people do not trust the ANC with their vote and small parties like F4SD are waiting to benefit from such developments. F4SD will marginally grow its support, not only as a result of the ANC’s failure to run municipalities effectively.
The disgruntled leaders who failed to emerge as councillors or mayoral candidates for the ANC did not waste time, they found a refuge at F4SD and were made candidates for the party. They claim to have been cheated or robbed by their former party, the ANC.
It becomes so difficult to ignore the noise made by F4SD, which quickly reminds everyone of their huge achievements when they first entered this political fray. Unlike in 2016, they now have increased resources that allow them to be anywhere, give their people regalia, and serve them with food and refreshments. Experience in both politics and elections will help them to strengthen their fortunes and support.
The Freedom Front Plus will also get some of the votes from white communities – including the likes of farm towns such as Zeerust, Swaartruggens, Potchefstroom, Lichtenburg – especially as a result of the declining support for the DA in the province.
The EFF is not as strong as could be expected because they do not have the right people as their candidates, something that the national or provincial leadership should look into. Despite having limited support, the EFF will still receive a seat in one or two municipalities around the province.
Having said all that, I still don’t foresee that the ANC will actually lose control of any municipalities, but will likely only lose a few council seats for the reasons mentioned above.
Kenneth Mokgatlhe is an independent writer, social and political commentator. He holds a BA honours in political science from the University of Limpopo. A former PAC spokesperson, Mokgatlhe is currently studying teaching at the University of South Africa.