South Africa

Analysis: The ANC crosses the Jordaan

By Stephen Grootes 20 May 2015

On Monday, to general astonishment but in a not entirely surprising move, the ANC said it was going to install Danny Jordaan as the new mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality. To some, it was expected, as there has been chaos within that municipality for years. To others, it was a complete shock; how can a sports administrator run a city? But the real question has got nothing to do with that. The real question is, can Jordaan help the ANC to retain the city in next year’s local government elections? By STEPHEN GROOTES.

The battle for the Nelson Mandela Bay could be a watershed in our politics. It would be the first time the ANC has lost a metro that it actually won in a straight election. Those with long memories would remember that while it did control Cape Town at one point, that was through an alliance with something called the New National Party and the now banished evil known as floor-crossing. There will be those who suggest the real battle will be in Gauteng, where the City of Joburg, Tshwane and possibly Ekhuruleni could also fall. Perhaps. But if the Nelson Mandela Metro doesn’t fall, then opposition parties might well wonder if it is ever possible to dislodge the ANC from local government, and thus from any form of government anywhere.

So this battle matters to all sides. And it matters to the extent where the ANC has done something it only does in desperate times. It has parachuted someone in, in the shape of Danny Jordaan. Jordaan is certainly a gifted man. He was able to win the World Cup for South Africa twice (he, and we, were cheated the first time, if you remember). He was also able to make sure that when the blasted tournament actually did come here, it went off without a hitch. Maybe we all bent over too far for Sepp Blatter and his henchmen, but it can’t be denied Jordaan ran a well-oiled machine.

But what makes this different from other parachute jobs that the ANC has conducted in the past is that Jordaan is not coming from some other national office. He has very little experience of actually being deployed by the ANC. He was, of course, an MP at one point, but that’s hardly the kind of experience you need to run a city.

However, the ANC is in dire straits in the city of Port Elizabeth. There have been several mayors, and several people in charge. They haven’t always been the same person. There appear to be two main causes for the ANC’s problems there: power struggles and corruption. The two are linked, in that the power struggles may actually just be a fight for the control of patronage. The scandals this has caused have been so big that there have been successive investigations into them, but not all of those reports have been released.

To add to the complications, the Eastern Cape ANC itself appears divided. In 2012 the provincial party battled to hold a conference of its OR Tambo region, which was at the time the country’s second biggest. This was because of a situation very similar to that unfolding in the eThekwini region now: a fight for control. To make things worse, the position of the Eastern Cape ANC relative to the KwaZulu-Natal ANC has weakened significantly. When then President Thabo Mbeki ran against President Jacob Zuma at Polokwane, it was thought that the Eastern Cape might be big enough to ensure he would carry the day. By the time the 2012 Mangaung elective conference came around, the Eastern Cape could only muster two thirds of the number of branches in good standing that KwaZulu-Natal could. And hundreds of its branches suddenly disappeared, because they were judged to be “not in good standing”.

Jordaan immediately faces several problems. The first is a perennial problem facing any political appointee in his position. He now has to manage and administer a group of politicians over whose heads he was appointed. They all wanted the main job; he came from nowhere and got it. That is not going to be easy. Then, as former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi pointed out on Tuesday, he has to actually govern. And as Vavi puts it, he cannot be seen as any different from the chaotic ANC leaders that went before him, unless he “gets those who are responsible for creating the mess into prison”. In other words, he runs the risk of losing the metro for the ANC unless he puts those who are corrupt in jail. Which is unlikely to win him friends among those who have political power in that area (Although you could argue he’s had plenty of practice while he was part of Fifa – Ed).

Jordaan is going to be staring straight down the barrel of the ANC’s eternal problem, how to take action against those who actually have true local support. Think of John Block in the Northern Cape or Zukiswa Ncitha down the road in East London, or perhaps even someone in a higher position who has faced corruption charges… It is surely almost impossible for Jordaan to escape from this without being damaged in some way.

But even without the internal problems, the politics of the city mean Jordaan will be on a knife-edge. Probably the best analysis conducted so far of what could happen next year comes courtesy of the municipal analyst Paul Berkowitz. In his blog he delves into the different wards (and provides a helpful diagram for the pictorially minded) and explains how close it is. But the hard numbers are simple; in 2011 the ANC won just 52%. Last year, if you look at how people living in that metro voted in the national election, you see that just 47% voted for the ANC. However, things are complicated by two other factors. Firstly, the ANC tends to do less well in council elections than in national elections, and secondly, the way you vote is different because local elections are a mixture of proportional representation and voting for a ward councillor.

You would think, by this stage, the DA would be looking at all of this with some amusement. But still, while the ANC may get less than 50%, it could still actually get more votes than the DA. And thus the race to form a coalition will be on. Could the DA really get into bed with the EFF? Cope would be easy, but the red berets? How about the IFP, that might be easy, and of course the DA and the FF+ could do business. But what if the ANC asks the IFP to join it, or even Cope? And then there is the unknown unknown in the shape of the United Front that is being started by metalworkers union Numsa: it may run, it may not, but if it does, it will surely get into double digits, probably at the ANC’s expense.

And yet, even if Jordaan adds just one percent to the ANC’s total vote tally, it could be enough. That’s how close things appear to be.

The ANC has probably found the best possible candidate to lead it through this situation in the metro in Jordaan. But even he is going to find it very tough indeed, mainly because the future is so unpredictable. Unlike FIFA elections. DM

Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma poses with FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke (L) and Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Danny Jordaan (R) after being presented with the Confederations cup trophy in Cape Town June 9, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Wessels


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