ROAD TO 2021 LOCAL ELECTIONS INTERVIEW
Kingmaker with an eye on mayoral chain: Al Jama-ah says it won’t budge on its goals
Political party Al Jama-ah has key goals going into this year’s municipal elections: be a kingmaker on councils and, when other parties come knocking, don the mayoral chain. And that's non-negotiable.
In the November local government elections, Al Jama-ah is looking to extend its reach in the voter base, including in Johannesburg and Tshwane. The party wants to increase its share of the vote and potentially become kingmaker in several municipalities, said leader Ganief Hendricks in an interview with Daily Maverick.
The polls will be the party’s third municipal elections since its formation in 2007. In its first municipal campaign in 2011, it received 13,227 votes. In the 2016 municipal poll, its share rose significantly to 36,886 votes. “We are one of the few parties that’s growing, doubling in size every election, and there must be a good reason people have confidence in us,” said Hendricks via Zoom.
Al Jama-ah’s municipal election results:
Source: IEC website. Table by Suné Payne, Daily Maverick
Currently, the party has two councillors in the City of Cape Town, two in the City of Johannesburg, one in the eThekwini Municipality, one in Langalibalele Municipality (Estcourt), two in KwaDukuza Municipality, one in the Umdoni Municipality and another in the Msunduzi Municipality.
In 2019, the party gained its first seat in the National Assembly following the sixth democratic national and provincial elections. Hendricks took up the party’s sole seat.
Not party to the process
“Democracy is as important as free and fair elections,” said Hendricks about the party’s approach to the 2021 polls.
The party did not make a submission to the Moseneke inquiry to determine if free and fair elections could take place because, Hendricks said, other parties had already made their views known. However, the party would have preferred a one-week delay of the polls to allow a potential fourth wave to pass, he added.
The party also did not take part in the Constitutional Court process for an election postponement by the Electoral Commission until February 2022. Hendricks explained this was due to political parties having already made their views known on the matter, as well as the costs associated with a court application. “We’d rather use that R100,000 for campaigning.”
Thus the party relied on the Constitutional Court’s judgment – that the elections must be held no later than 1 November. This delay, and the reopening of the candidate registration process, allowed Al Jama-ah to register a candidate who had moved from Cape Town to Gqeberha.
Hendricks confirmed the party has 1,000 candidates in five provinces.
One of the party’s big focus areas is Tshwane, home of the country’s administrative capital – a “new territory”, as Hendricks describes it. Here it wants four seats on the tightly contested council. “We’ve never had a seat before and those four seats will be sought after by the EFF, ANC and the DA – no one will ever have an outright majority,” he said. With the work the party has been doing in the city, Hendricks is confident “that we are going to get the four seats”.
With those four seats Al Jama-ah wants to become kingmaker in Tshwane. In Johannesburg, its goal is 10 seats. In the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality the party is aiming for three, which could tip the scales in favour of a coalition deal with other parties.
Hendricks told Daily Maverick that in the City of Cape Town the party hoped the ANC would have enough votes so that the difference between the ANC and incumbent DA would be 15 seats. “And if we have the 15 seats, we can then be the kingmakers.” But, he added, “this time around we want to wear the [mayoral] chain”. Hendricks is the party’s candidate for mayor of Cape Town.
The party had been using loud-hailing car convoys to spread its message in the run-up to the elections. It also used Facebook and had an online radio station to reach voters, although it felt the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) “must give political parties a temporary broadcasting licence, at least one month before the elections, so we can do our messaging properly”.
Hendricks said getting onto radio stations was expensive, and then limited times were given for messaging. The party would be writing to Icasa to request a dozen temporary frequencies be opened to help “messaging, to help campaigning and to help our democracy”.
The party is also putting up campaign posters and producing pamphlets with information about candidates.
“We don’t want to make any promises, we want to tell people what we’ve done and what we’re doing – and we’re doing quite a lot at the moment.”
Al Jama-ah is a political party that aligns itself with Islam. However, Hendricks told Daily Maverick that while the majority of members followed the Islamic faith, it was a “political platform” for everyone. Hendricks said the party was approached by Griqua tribes in the Northern Cape to use the party as a platform – in turn gaining support for the party in the province.
Marriages and municipalities
But what has the party done as representative for its communities?
“We changed the laws on maintenance, we are looking at the problems with regard to religious marriages, which are not recognised,” said Hendricks, referring to the Marriages Act, which seeks to recognise Muslim marriage rights.
“We are involved with tackling the municipalities who are polluting our rivers… we take them to the director of environmental enforcement,” said Hendricks, adding that this would benefit communities.
With all of the work the party had been doing, “we feel that we would be able to do a good job if we are elected ward councillors”. DM