ROAD TO 2021 LOCAL ELECTIONS
ANC manifesto launch: Ramaphosa admits mistakes, says party will do better
President Cyril Ramaphosa presented a list of the ANC’s failures and promises at the party’s Monday evening manifesto launch, where getting out of the house to be with many other people was a massive highlight.
Moving into the central square of a city being failed by the administration of the day is pretty much the kind of thing the DA would do, but the ANC pulled similar moves by organising its first big bash in over 20 months in Pretoria’s Church Square on Monday.
This was to launch the party’s manifesto ahead of the 1 November election, or the “real manifesto” as ANC Youth League interim leader Nonceba Mahlauli said in her speech, after the EFF and the DA had launched theirs over the weekend.
In 2016 a governing coalition led by the DA took over the city when voters deserted the ANC in their droves because of unhappiness with former president Jacob Zuma’s leadership and the large-scale corruption that took place under his watch.
Residents of Tshwane have since been reporting hardships similar to those in ANC-led municipalities, such as electricity outages, water cuts, a lack of rubbish removal, potholed roads, overflowing sewage and informal settlements that have not been upgraded.
“We understand that you were disappointed with the ANC,” Ramaphosa told the not-too-large, safely spaced-out crowd, “discouraged by our shortcomings and angry about allegations of State Capture and corruption.”
Voting for the opposition had, however, “caused great hardship for the residents of Tshwane,” he said.
Not all hardship comes from the opposition. It was most likely not the opposition who recently killed Tshepo Motaung, Mabopane councillor and an ANC candidate in the forthcoming elections. The opposition could also not be blamed for setting buses alight and causing parts of the city to shut down five years ago as unhappiness within the ANC about candidate selection spilled over into violence in the weeks before the local government elections.
Fortunately for the ANC the Tshwane Metro has been getting bad press lately, among others issues over terrorising a man, dubbed the Cabbage Bandit, who tried to cultivate vegetables on his pavement for the hungry to eat.
“We will ensure the unrestricted development of urban and pavement gardens where crops can be planted to increase food security,” Ramaphosa promised.
The statue of Paul Kruger was fenced off, leaving him socially distanced and looking on as the crowd, wearing yellow T-shirts and waving flags with an election slogan, “building better communities”, and Ramaphosa’s face on them, clapped politely when Ramaphosa made a good point.
Even when he said: “We stand here to admit that we have made mistakes. We have not always put the best people with responsibility in government,” there was polite applause.
There wasn’t reference to the historical significance of the square, or to the Palace of Justice where the Rivonia Trial was conducted.
But the litany of admissions continued. “Too often, we have been slow to act when our public representatives and leaders committed wrongdoing, when they abused their position or failed in implementing the mandate that you gave them,” Ramaphosa said.
But he added that, since the 2019 elections when the ANC won the general elections after promises that it would renew and rebuild, the party had been fighting to restore itself “and remove the obstacles to progress towards a better South Africa”.
“We have made important advances, but there is much more we need to do,” said the president.
While it is convenient to use the failure of other parties to highlight your own and to promise improvements, Ramaphosa is likely to be acutely aware that the ANC needs to get the metros back from the DA before voters become as cosy with the opposition as it had been in the City of Cape Town Metro for the past 15 years.
At least one of the people looking on from outside the fence that enclosed the area to limit the numbers in line with Covid-19 regulations said he voted DA in the 2019 elections but would return to the ANC this year because his family convinced him to return to the governing party. His brothers live in Hazyview, which he admitted has been badly run by the ANC. “We must give the party a chance to fix its mistakes,” the man said.
Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe also graced the proceedings, and got to sit in the big chairs in front with the party’s top five, while their successor, Jacob Zuma, was conspicuous by his absence. Ramaphosa wished Zuma a speedy recovery after his recent release from prison on medical parole, to loud applause. Of suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, who wasn’t on stage, no mention was made.
Following his speech, Ramaphosa asked a couple of party officers to collect the handwritten posters from those in the audience who held them throughout his speech. One was written on the back of an ActionSA poster. All appeared to be complaints about the current DA administration, and ANC Chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who was in high spirits, urged protesters to vote out the current administration.
The buildings surrounding the square didn’t quite echo Ramaphosa’s “vivas” and “amandlas” in the same way an 80,000-seater stadium would, but party Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile must have been satisfied that it had cost less, with the party’s funding reportedly still in the red. So bad are things that the T-shirt distributors refused to give these to people looking on from outside the fence, because there were not enough T-shirts.
Ramaphosa said the manifesto was the ANC’s “plan and our solemn pledge for the next five years”. He said the ANC pledged “that we will do better”.
He also admitted: “We have not always done the best we were meant to do.”
If not exactly upbeat, at least parts of this manifesto are honest. DM