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In what feels like another life, I spent time with Danny Jordaan, the ANC’s great hope for a voting miracle in the Port Elizabeth municipal election. The Jordaan I worked with two decades ago was honest and thoughtful. I always suspected he had a hand in creating the Tshwete Commission into rampant corruption within the SA Football Association. That commission led to the conviction of SAFA chief, the late Stix Morewa, after it was proved he accepted a bribe from Brian Mahon’s odious promotions company ASI. But for most South Africans, all that is ancient history. Today, recently installed PE Mayor Jordaan carries the albatross of having been part of the SAFA executive which paid a $10m bribe to the rotten global soccer body FIFA to secure hosting of the 2010 World Cup. Hopefully he kicked against it. But by not publicly spilling the beans he was part of a conspiracy of silence. That made Jordaan complicit. And as FIFA officials rush for the sweetest deals, the sordid story of the $10m bribe is rapidly surfacing in global media. Also locally, where most already believe corruption is endemic. The FIFA bribe brings a stink surrounding even “good guys” like Danny. Particularly if they have any connection with a ruling political party. A point made by the London Financial Times in its assessment below showing the ANC is seriously alienating its metropolitan support base. – Alec Hogg
— Rand Daily Mail (@rdm_za) April 13, 2016
By Andrew England in Port Elizabeth
South Africa’s ruling party boasted that more than 100,000 supporters would attend the launch of its manifesto ahead of crucial local elections.
The event, held at a sports stadium in Port Elizabeth, was meant to be a powerful show of force after weeks of turmoil that had led to calls for President Jacob Zuma to resign – even from within his own African National Congress. But when Mr Zuma strode to the stage on Saturday at the 46,000-seater stadium, large banks of seats were empty.
The image was illustrative of the trials and tribulations ANC faces in the weeks leading up to the August poll. The former liberation movement may still draw thousands to its events but its support at the ballot box has waned at three consecutive votes since 2009. This year’s municipal vote is expected to be the most fiercely contested since the ANC won the first democratic election in 1994.
The ANC’s task has been exacerbated by the scandals engulfing Mr Zuma and threaten to overshadow the party’s election campaign. The most recent, which has triggered multiple calls for his removal, was a constitutional court ruling that he violated the constitution by failing to abide by the Public Protector’s recommendations that he repay some of the millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money spent upgrading his private Nkandla residence.
At stake in the election is the ANC’s hold on big cities, including Johannesburg, the country’s commercial hub, and Pretoria, the capital. The poll will gauge how much damage the controversies dogging Mr Zuma have wrought on his party, and whether the opposition can capitalise.
Of all the cities, the ANC’s slim majority in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, a traditional stronghold of the party, is considered the most vulnerable.
Should it lose control of the city it would be an embarrassing and damaging blow to the ANC, heaping more pressure on Mr Zuma and presenting further evidence that voting patterns in Africa’s most industrialised nation are shifting.
“It would mean they can no longer talk of a sentimental hold that the ANC has over black voters – the emotional umbilical chord has been severed forever,” says Mcebisi Ndletyana, an associate professor at Johannesburg University.
At present, only one big urban centre, Cape Town, where black Africans are not in the majority falls outside the ANC’s control. But if the opposition is able to break the ANC’s majorities in other cities, the former liberation movement will be increasingly reliant on poorer, rural areas.
“There’s no doubt about the critical nature of this election,” says Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition. “You could end up with a scenario . . . where the liberation movement governs in rural areas through patronage; and in urban areas people making decisions on the basis of different choices.”
In many ways, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which includes Port Elizabeth, is a microcosm of the ANC’s problems in cities, where urban voters have grown frustrated with poor service delivery, mismanagement and corruption.
In an attempt to turnround its fortunes in the coastal city, the ANC appointed Danny Jordaan, who led South Africa’s successful 2010 football World Cup bid, as mayor 10 months ago. Since then he has battled to sort out its finances and dismissed 29 top city officials.
Mr Jordaan acknowledges it will be “devastating” if the ANC loses control of the municipality. The party won 52 per cent of the vote in the metro in 2011 local elections and less than 50 per cent in a national vote in 2014.
“If the ANC succeeds here and regains its strength, it would have been a benchmark . . . It would say: ‘This is what we actually need to do. Roll up our sleeves and admit that yes there’s corruption . . . and face it and deal with i,'” Mr Jordaan says. “It’s very clear to me the people love the ANC but they hate corruption. Remove corruption and the people will love the ANC.”
Yet Mr Zuma’s battered credibility makes the task far harder. The president’s charisma and common touch play well in rural areas but analysts say urban voters are angered and disillusioned with their president.
Even at the manifesto launch, there were ANC supporters who felt he should resign.
Read also: Jordaan mum on Fifa as he becomes PE mayor
After initially saying he backs the president, Tapami, an unemployed man wearing a T-shirt handed out by the ANC emblazoned with Mr Zuma’s face, admits “we want him to step town”.
“He’s eating our money building Nkandla,” he says.
Tapami says he will still vote for the ANC, and it is not uncommon for supporters to differentiate between president and party. In the eyes of many black voters the ANC remains the only credible political option.
But the August vote will test the strength of that loyalty, and others are already demanding change.
Linda Alindile, a university student planning to vote for the Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical breakaway of the ANC, says: “They are all corrupt, or most of them are. In the ANC, the more corrupt you are the higher you rise.”
(c) 2016 The Financial Times Ltd.
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