South Africa, Politics

Thoko Didiza: ‘I feel a part of Tshwane’

By Greg Nicolson 23 June 2016

While the unrest in Tshwane has begun to subside, the provincial ANC on Thursday tried to show it now has control over the conflict and is ready to move towards the elections. Despite the violence, mayoral candidate Thoko Didiza maintained that she is ready to lead and feels as loved by the community as ever. By GREG NICOLSON.

Speaking on the issue for the first time since being named the ANC’s candidate for Tshwane mayor, a confident Thoko Didiza on Thursday said she has worked in a variety of government roles “but this one is a new and challenging one”.

I also want to thank the people of Tshwane who when I came to that city they embraced me as their child,” said Didiza. “I’ve never and still do not feel foreign in Tshwane. Even with the latest incidences, which I don’t believe reflect the feelings of the community of Tshwane. And I therefore don’t feel in any way alienated. I feel a part of that community.”

Protests, violence and looting gripped areas of Tshwane after the ANC national executive committee (NEC) on Monday chose Didiza over rival Tshwane ANC leaders Kgosientso Ramokgopa and Mapiti Matsena as its candidate for the upcoming elections. Presenting its provincial mayoral candidates on Thursday, the Gauteng ANC wanted to assure the public the unrest was under control and Didiza has the full backing of party structures.

Leaders argued against claims that Didiza is an outsider who should not have been chosen. They said she has lived in the city for years, that the party doesn’t have to choose a local leader, and that it remains the imperative of the provincial executive to appoint mayors.

Let me allay your fears. Comrade Thoko Didiza lives in Tshwane and has lived there for more than 20 years. She is a resident there. She has been active in structures of the ANC there. In fact, at some point she was a branch secretary of the ANC in that area. So she’s not an outsider,” said ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile.

ANC NEC member Aaron Motsoaledi said, “One of the founding principles of the ANC is to fight the demon of tribalism. Anybody who brings in tribalism is stabbing the ANC in the heart.”

However, the minister said he had heard tribalism is not a key issue but was just “smoke and mirrors”. People are scared they will lose jobs and opportunities such as Extended Public Works Programme positions, so revert to the easiest attack.

Didiza, a former minister and NEC member, handled all the questions about her appointment and the following unrest with ease.

I must say that it is sad that our communities, no matter at what level of disgruntlement, can engage in acts of violence and destruction, and I hope that going forward we will be able to find a way working with the leadership in our communities to find strategies of how we could resolve conflict where such conflict will arise without necessarily destroying the assets that will benefit our communities,” she said.

Since Sunday, five people have died in related unrest in Tshwane, including two bodies found in Mabopane on Thursday. There have been more than 200 arrests. The violence, which ANC leaders say is now driven by crime rather than politics, has mostly abated, but many areas remain tense.

Premier and ANC Gauteng deputy chairperson David Makhura said, “There is no looting. There is calm everywhere in the city today. We have been monitoring this overnight.” Attempts to block roads on Wednesday night were averted and looting is still a concern, he said, but he claimed ANC members are now working to prevent further damage.

The ANC is acting everywhere as one… We can assure the people of our province that in the last few instances of looting in particular that ANC members are helping to stop those.”

Provincial ANC secretary Hope Papo called on the police to arrest anyone committing crimes, whether they’re ANC members or not.

Both Matsena and Ramokgopa have come out in support of Didiza and the party says its Tshwane zones also back the candidate.

Didiza, who is not a regional leader, was asked who, if elected, she will take her mandate from. “How does one ensure that in the governance we work with those comrades who are in the structures of the ANC? I think this is not foreign. I’m fortunate that I’m in the national executive. The ANC remains the centre. So what one executes, it’s what people would have voted for in the manifesto of the ANC,” she said.

Thursday’s event at Ruth First House was ostensibly to introduce the party’s 11 mayoral candidates in the province.

Photo: Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau speaks after he has been announced the ANC’s candidate for re-election. (Greg Nicolson)

Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau, who is running for his second term, said the city on Thursday had adopted a spatial vision and would focus on changing the city’s spaces.

It is important that we understand, for us to resolve apartheid spatial cities we have to resolve them in spatial terms because… we have to integrate our communities using the tools at our disposal and the investments that we are making in our city,” said Tau.

He promised to invest in young people, expanding the Vulindlel’ eJozi programme and other efforts, and said the city must start reaping the demographic dividend from its young people.

Mzwandile Masina, the ANC’s candidate for Ekhurhuleni and current deputy minister of trade and industry, said he would commit to clean governance, assisting with housing opportunities and using innovative ways to improve service delivery.

Masina also said he wants to tackle youth unemployment, perhaps through a further extension of the Expanded Public Works Programme, and consolidate the region’s manufacturing sector.

We are going to be adding much more energies to ensure those things happen faster, quicker but within the ambit of the law.” DM

Photo: ANC mayoral candidate for Tshwane Thoko Didiza and ANC Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile at the introduction of the Gauteng ANC mayoral candidates for the 2016 elections. (Greg Nicolson)

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