Arguably one of the country’s most hotly contested provinces, the North West has been claimed as the home of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the lead up to the May 8 general election.
Both Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the ANC, and Julius Malema of the EFF have recently crisscrossed the platinum province to drum up support for their parties ahead of election day.
Ramaphosa held an election blitz in most of the major towns and Malema held closed meetings with party members in all four regions of the North West before the party’s manifesto launch.
Ramaphosa, at the launch of his party’s manifesto in Rustenburg on March 2, said the North West was the home of the ANC, while Malema told party supporters in Lethabong that the “EFF is North West and North West is the EFF”.
At the North West manifesto launch in Lethobong, Rustenburg, on March 31, Malema told party members: “If you do not bring a new government on May 8, people of North West, you will have yourselves to blame because, in North West, the government of the day is rotten to the core.”
However, Ramaphosa assured ANC members that the party would win the North West province.
“We are not going to lose this province (North West), it is the home of the ANC. We are going to increase our majority. North West is the home of the ANC,” he said.
But the ANC goes into the May election limping. In North West, it was rocked by factions that nearly cost it the key Rustenburg local municipality in the 2016 municipal election.
Rustenburg is the only hung municipality in North West, which the ANC controls through a coalition with the Botho Community Movement (BCM), African Independent Congress (AIC), and Freedom Front Plus.
Disgruntled ANC councillors voted with the opposition to unseat mayors in some municipalities, including in Matlosana where mayor Maetu Kgaile was voted out, only to be reinstated after the ANC intervened.
Recently the mayor of Mamusa, Aaron Motswana, was voted out after six ANC councillors voted with the opposition to unseat him.
Another setback for the oldest liberation movement in Africa, was the mass rebellion against Supra Mahumapelo, the provincial premier of the North West and provincial chair of the ANC.
He resigned in May 2018 as the premier of North West after weeks of violent protests by residents who called for him to vacate office in mass protests which rocked the province to its core. Job Mokgoro replaced him in June as provincial premier.
The party’s provincial executive committee (PEC) was also dissolved which saw Motswana, supported by Mahumapelo, go to court arguing that the ANC had erred in disbanding the PEC.
The North West, or Bokone Bophirima as it is also known, also struggled with its candidate lists, forcing the once formidable ANC to postpone its submission just days before the party’s annual January 8 statement.
Despite all the problems facing the ANC in North West, Ramaphosa assured members the party was attending to the problems and called for unity.
“The steps that we have taken and are continuing to take in this province, both at the level of the organisation and the government, are informed precisely by the seriousness with which we are self-correcting.”
The ANC scored 73.84% of the votes in the 2009 general election. This was before the formation of the EFF. In the 2014 election, ANC support declined to 67.39% while the newly launched EFF managed to obtained 13.21% of the votes in North West at their first attempt.
Opposition parties have seen the challenges that beset the ANC faces as an opportunity to raise their own profiles and take voters from the ruling party.
Democratic Alliance (DA) premier candidate Joe McGluwa said the party wanted to reduce the ANC to below 50% of the vote.
He said the DA would do better in the May 8 general election with an increased margin. “It is possible for us to reach 24% of the votes,” McGluwa said.
“Before it was 13% and 14%, it was very low but, we are very positive this time around of what is happening in the province. It is possible for us to reach 22% or 24%.”
In the 2014 election, the DA ranked third in North West with 12.73% of the votes compared to the 8.70% it obtained in the 2009 election.
But the DA faces its own threats from Patricia de Lille’s Good party. The former mayor of Cape Town formed the Good party after she resigned from the DA after a lengthy and bruising public spat that captured media headlines, doing much damage to the image of the DA.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane and party chief whip John Steenhuisen also visited North West to charm voters, with the party leader playing down the impact of Good on the DA.
Maimane described the DA as a party for all races, but Steenhuisen blasted the Freedom Front Plus for its “slaan terug” (fight back) stance, although the DA itself has come under fire for some of its electioneering in its traditional strongholds which calls for keeping the ANC and EFF out.
Steenhuisen said there was no need to fight back, but to stand together.
“Hoe kan jy terug slaan as daar nie mense in vergadering (is nie)? Moenie terug slaan maar staan saam,” he said in Afrikaans, which translates to: “How can you fight back when there are no people in your meetings? Do not fight back but stand together.”
A good chunk of DA voters are believed to have left with De Lille, potentially eating away at the gains the party made when De Lille gave it voters on a platter with the incorporation of her former party, the Independent Democrats, into the DA.
Although the ANC, EFF and DA are seen as the main contenders in the North West, smaller parties such as the African Transformation Movement, Woman Forward, and African Content Movement – led by charismatic and controversial former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, pose a threat to their traditional voters base.
The ANC is in a pole position to retain control of the province, but it is likely to be with a reduced margin.
In this election, the ANC’s primary challenge consists not just of its traditional political foes, but potentially a damaging rebellion within its own ranks.
– African News Agency