Cape Town – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa insists the ANC remains the hope of the people.
On Friday, he sounded optimistic about his party’s prospects in the Western Cape. It’s the only province in South Africa not run by his party and unlikely to go the way of the ANC on Wednesday, if political forecasters are to be believed.
Ramaphosa showed no signs of concern over the outcome of polls in the Western Cape. He has been canvassing there for the ANC for days.
On Friday, he first stopped at the home of Goodwill Mshwene, who said he lived with five family members in the shack just off Mew Way. Ramaphosa appeared amused to learn the well-built Mshwene was a chef at a Cape Town casino.
He described his family to Ramaphosa, explaining his 19-year-old son would soon complete high school. “Apply, apply for NSFAS,” urged the Deputy President. Beside Ramaphosa sat former Miss South Africa Joan Madibeng (neé Ramagoshi) who also encouraged Mshwene to apply for funding for his son.
Mshwene heard the ANC was eager for a good turnout during the local government elections next week. The brawny chef insisted he would vote for the ANC, and that those in his area with any sense would do the same.
DA ‘pandering to the rich’
In a nearby home Nomaindia Mfeketo, former Cape Town ANC mayor from October 2002 to March 2006, spoke to a gogo, encouraging her to vote for the party.
Asked if reports of confusion about who would lead the ANC in the Western Cape could cost the party votes, Mfeketo said the ANC would only lose in the province if people failed to understand its policies.
“If we don’t win it will not be because of the internal issues in the ANC,” she said. Instead, it would be because people hadn’t “reached that stage of understanding” that the party’s policies were creating equality.
Mfeketo criticized the ruling party in the Western Cape, the DA, saying it pandered to the rich. “There’s two countries in one city, two cities in one Cape Town. When I was mayor, at that time, we didn’t only focus on the poor areas.”
The DA’s Helen Zille took over from Mfeketo in March 2006 and the region has remained predominantly “blue” since then. Ward 99 in Khayelitsha was fairly quiet on Friday morning, with small clusters of residents gathering to see Ramaphosa.
Several locals seemed pleased to receive crisp new ANC shirts with President Jacob Zuma’s smiling face printed on them. A woman asked Ramaphosa for a shirt, but neither he nor his assistants had one ready at that moment.
“There goes a vote,” he quipped.
Hungry but loyal
Here and there ANC posters appeared on street lamps, or were pasted to the stark grey walls of public toilets, along with placards for the DA and the EFF.
Resident Thoza Minise, an unemployed 34-year-old said: “My shelter is raining. I can’t work, what must I do? And I’m not working, I am suffering. Even now I don’t have anything: mielie meal, rice, or nothing.”
Asked what she would like to tell Ramaphosa, she said the ANC had to do something for her and others who were suffering.
“Long time I vote for them but nothing they do changes for me. I am so fed up,” continued Minise shaking her head with her arms crossed.
She remained an ANC supporter and her late grandmother had been loyal to the party. “I’m going to vote for the ANC, until I die. Until I die,” she insisted.
Ramaphosa continued his Khayelitsha walkabout surrounded by heavy security. He was guided toward another shack, flanked by security personnel.
As he ducked through the doorway, Ramaphosa duly removed his peak cap and entered the homes with provincial party leaders. Outside, police and security officials stood stiffly in the yard in thick winter coats.
Following the tour, Ramaphosa spoke to hundreds of ANC supporters gathered on an open field. Women in ANC T-shirts rushed forward, hands raised, ululating as he and his entourage approached.
When he introduced Andile Lili, of the Ses’khona People’s Movement, the crowd erupted into cheers. “Lili. Lili. Lili!” they cried. Khaya Magaxa and Yonela Diko were also warmly received by their supporters.
‘Set an alarm, get up and vote!’
Though the ANC lost to the DA in the Western Cape in the last two elections, the DA’s first win in the province was by a slim margin. In the 2009 election it won 51.46% of the vote. In 2014, that number had climbed to 59.4% of Western Cape ballots.
During his address Ramaphosa associated the DA with the National Party and apartheid, echoing the rhetoric of Zuma in an election speech in Nelson Mandela Bay on Saturday. The DA in turn claimed the ANC “wants to bring back apartheid” in what some might call political mudslinging at the eleventh hour.
Ramaphosa told Western Cape voters the ANC government provided grants worth millions each month. “Where does the money come from?” he asked the audience. “ANC,” he answered in a response the crowd repeated.
He encouraged residents to wake up early on Wednesday, August 3 and rally friends and family to turn out at the polling stations.
“Set an alarm on your phones, and when you get up tell others to get up and vote. Vuka! Vuka!” he advised.
Ramaphosa argued the ANC had made changes for the better in the eight provinces where it governed, and that people could see the improvements. He said he was appalled and disappointed in statements from the DA claiming where it governed peoples’ lives improved.
“What disappoints me even more is to hear and to see that over a period of 10 years they have not built houses here, where almost 20 000 people live,” said Ramaphosa.
The lack of housing, services and development in Endlovini, gave credence to the notion “the DA gives attention to areas where white people live and not areas where back people live.”
Later, he spun his remarks in favour of support for the ANC. “Hope springs eternal in the hearts of our people, even in this place.”
Asked whether the ANC was elitist or had groomed a privileged political class removed from the struggles of ordinary South Africans, Ramaphosa said such a view of the party was unfair.
“The ANC remains the hopes of our people. It remains connected to our people. We are the only organisation that has the biggest network of people connected to other organisations.”
Calls for a peaceful process
Following his address, Ramaphosa joined provincial leaders for photographs and playfully adopted the pose that has become synonymous with the party’s Siyanqoba campaign.
On Saturday, he will rally for the party in Gauteng and in a matter of days the electioneering for the municipal elections will end. The political calendar for 2016 has been mired by political killings. Ramaphosa said he was hopeful all those involved in campaigning would respect the outcomes of the elections.
“We need to have a peaceful process of elections […] we should accept that people have given their voice and they’ve spoken democratically and those who have not succeeded must wait for the next five years and come back and fight another battle,” he said.
Long after Ramaphosa and his entourage had driven off and the crowd had scattered, a few residents in yellow shirts stood in the veld where they had cheered for him and his party. Children made their way home from school. A stray dog scampered across a busy road.
Passing a spaza shop, fresh cuts of meat were laid out for sale, innards and fresh tripe waiting for workers walking home from the taxi rank, hungry from a day’s work. At the nearby mall a poster of DA leader Mmusi Maimane stood out in the parking lot near a stall of fresh fruit.