The campaign trail criss-cross diaries: A week in politics

The campaign trail criss-cross diaries: A week in politics
From left: ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier) | DA leader John Steenhuisen. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu) | EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo: Gallo Images / Laird Forbes)

Leaders of the three biggest SA political parties, the DA, ANC and EFF, are on the campaign trail. We look at where they have been campaigning over seven days.

Cyril Ramaphosa, John Steenhuisen and Julius Malema are working hard on the campaign trail. This is a snapshot of where leaders of the three big parties have been, over seven days. It does not cover the full campaign through the weeks in the build-up to 1 November.

For instance, it excludes Steenhuisen’s trip to Upington the day before our period of scrutiny. It does not cover Cape Town, which will host Malema on 20 October. It means we cannot analyse why David Mabuza is back in Tshwane for the second time in the last few days. Nonetheless, this week of campaigning reveals the issues on the ground, and parties’ hopes to make inroads into communities.

Ramaphosa’s ramble

The President has a lot of power, but he cannot clear his diary for campaign duty as easily as Steenhuisen and Malema. He has had to schedule time for African Union meetings.

Tuesday, 12 October: Sol Plaatje (Kimberley)

The President spent the day in the provincial capital of the Northern Cape. There is nothing out of the ordinary with the ANC sending its leader to the most populous municipality in SA’s sparsest province. There are more potential seats for the ANC in Sol Plaatje than the entire Namakwa district.

The ANC fended off a raft of independent challenges in February 2019, when only one of seven former ANC councillors won their seat as an independent against their former party. Ramaphosa will hope that his visit gets that seat back to the ANC after 1 November.

Friday, 15 October: Tshwane

The ANC launched its manifesto in Tshwane in late September. Ramaphosa returned to the nation’s capital. The campaign included stops in Mabopane township north of the city, and Ga-Rankuwa in the north west. Mabopane is next to Winterveld, the area where the ANC performed best in the metro in 2016. The ANC were hurt by the EFF and the DA in Mabopane and Ga-Rankuwa in 2016. The ANC hopes the President’s charm offensive will see them clear 70%.

Sunday, 17 October: Maluti-a-Phofung (Phuthaditjhaba)

This might be the third-largest municipality in the Free State. It is also a traditional ANC stronghold where the party won by a landslide in 2016. Of all the municipalities in the country, this is where the ANC faces the biggest threat from an established local party.

In August 2019, 10 out of 16 former ANC councillors retained their seats in by-elections as independent councillors. These independents formed the Maluti-a-Phofung 16  (MAP16) civic movement, named after the municipality they hail from and the number of councillors who ditched the ANC. MAP16 ran the ANC close in a by-election in 2021. The ANC was saved by opposition parties splitting the vote. Ramaphosa will hope his visit gives the ANC another five years to turn this eastern Free State municipality around.

Monday, 18 October: Mangaung and Matjhabeng (Welkom)

There is nothing abnormal about Ramaphosa spending time in the Mangaung Metro, the biggest municipality in the province. Mangaung shut down earlier in 2021 as public dissatisfaction turned to anger. To date, no political grouping has been able to seize that momentum in the Free State capital.

Ramaphosa’s visit would have hopefully ginned up sufficient support to ensure the ANC retains outright control. Matjhabeng has been plagued by a service-delivery crisis. The second-biggest municipality in the province is centred on the Free State goldfields. The landscape is more competitive in Matjhabeng, with the ANC run close by the DA in an Odendaalsrus by-election earlier in 2021.

There are more prominent local parties here, and this is the type of area where the EFF message can penetrate. Ramaphosa’s campaign stop would have hopefully dampened the spirits of smaller parties, and ensured that the ANC minimises seat loss.

Tuesday, 19 October: Ekurhuleni

Ramaphosa did a councillor roll call in Alberton. Ekurhuleni is the ANC’s flagship metro of the last five years. He will hope his visit pushes the ANC to an outright win here. 

Steenhuisen’s sprint

Tuesday, 12 October: Tshwane and Ekurhuleni

The capital city was very kind to John Steenhuisen in May 2021, when the party held off the ANC in two marginal by-election seats and also beat off a determined, well-funded campaign from the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) in Faerie Glen. Steenhuisen still has an uphill battle to replicate his party’s showing from 2016, when the DA stunned the ANC to win the most votes in the metro and form a coalition, propped up by outside support from the EFF.

Steenhuisen knows he has to reconfigure that 2016 coalition of voters, which included a big suburban turnout in Centurion, Pretoria North and the eastern part of the city. He needs to ensure township voters, like those in Mamelodi West who backed the DA in 2016, stay with the party. He also campaigned with DA mayoral candidate Refiloe Nt’sekhe in Ekurhuleni. Nt’sekhe is a key leader in the party and Steenhuisen will hope that the ANC will fall below 50% in this metro again.

Wednesday, 13 October: Nelson Mandela Bay

This was supposed to be less complicated for the DA. They did well enough here in 2016 to not rely on the EFF to form a government in Gqeberha. Some coalition partners proved very difficult to work with and the last five years did not turn out the way the DA would have wanted. Steenhuisen will hope that the relative recent stability – and his party being first out of the starting blocks – will propel the DA forward again. Besides the ANC, he also has to contend with the Patriotic Alliance and the Northern Alliance.

This area came in big for the DA in 2019. Steenhuisen will be desperate for his party to have another chance here.

Thursday, 14 October: uMngeni (Howick) and eThekwini

uMngeni is a prime target for the DA. The party would need a two-seat swing to replace the ANC. Steenhuisen would love nothing more than a DA-led municipality in his home province. He will do all he can to ensure the party’s base turns out in their droves on 1 November. While the party did not formally announce a mayoral candidate in eThekwini, it is where the majority of its voters are in the province.

Steenhuisen knows that even if the ANC falls under 50% , the ANC is still likely to attract enough voters from smaller outfits to get the mayoralty again. However, playing his part in getting the ANC under 50% in Durban would be very rewarding.

Friday, 15 October: Thabazimbi and Modimolle-Mookgophong

These two municipalities are the only ones in Limpopo that have ever tasted opposition rule. The DA played a key role in the two coalitions that run these municipalities, including the donning of the mayoral chain in Modimolle.

This year is likely to be much harder. Ramaphosa has strong links to Limpopo. Voters will wonder whether these two coalition governments have achieved their full potential and might not be as enthusiastic to go to the polls this time. Steenhuisen will hope that his time in the Bushveld will see the ANC get under 50% again.

Saturday, 16 October: Emalahleni and Steve Tshwete (Middelburg)

These are the third- and fifth-biggest municipalities in the province, where the DA won the most seats in 2016. Steenhuisen will hope that an improved performance by the DA in Middelburg, coupled with a good showing by a new local party, will present the opportunity to bring the ANC under 50% – a first in a Mpumalanga municipality.

Tuesday, 19 October: Tshwane

Steenhuisen returns again, hoping that the low-key DA Mayor Randall Williams continues to win back the trust of the party’s voters in the capital.

Malema’s mad scramble

Malema visited the same number of municipalities as Ramaphosa and Steenhuisen combined. He seemingly has the energy of an American presidential candidate.

Tuesday, 12 October: Mbombela and Nkomazi (Malalane)

Malema campaigned in the provincial capital where the ANC does best. It makes sense for him to campaign in the most populous city in the province. Malema would also like to replace the DA as the official opposition. Nkomazi is the second-safest municipality for the ANC in the province. It won more than 80% of the vote in 2016. Malema will hope to bring in more EFF councillors.

Wednesday, 13 October: Govan Mbeki (Secunda) and Emalahleni

These two municipalities are centred on industry and mining. The municipalities on the Highveld Ridge both have their challenges. This is the perfect terrain for the EFF to make further inroads in the province. Malema will also know that if the ANC loses four out of its 37 seats in Govan Mbeki, it loses its outright majority.

Thursday, 14 October: Polokwane

This is the commander-in-chief’s hometown. It is also one of two provincial capitals where the EFF is the official opposition. Growth here in 2019 was subdued. Malema wants to paint Seshego red and make sure that the EFF builds on its tally of two ward councillors in Polokwane.

Friday, 15 October: Mangaung

Malema has to campaign in the Free State capital. His party won only nine out of 100 seats here in 2016 and struggled in recent by-elections. He will hope that the lack of significant local parties on the ballot, and the frustration at the decline of Mangaung and the shutdown earlier in the year, will see him do much better this time round.

Saturday, 16 October: Dihlabeng (Bethlehem), Maluti-a-Phofung and Setsoto (Senekal)

Malema visited the three largest municipalities in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District in the eastern Free State.

Senekal became a divisive racial flashpoint with violent protests in 2020, after the killing of a young white farm manager, Brendin Horner. After the arrest of black murder suspects, white residents stormed a police station. Malema led a rally in the town after that, with fear that it could spill over into racial violence.

Malema returned here for the campaign and will hope his presence in Senekal will propel the party forward in Setsoto. He will want his party to compete for second place after MAP16, and at the same time bring the ANC under 50%. Bethlehem has had major service-delivery challenges. Malema wants to be the chief beneficiary of frustrated ANC voters in the town.

Sunday, 17 October: Metsimaholo (Sasolburg), Matjhabeng and Nala (Bothaville)

Malema would have seen the ANC at its most vulnerable in Matjhabeng. He would also want to do his utmost to bring the ANC under 50% for the third election in a row in Metsimaholo.

He knows there is a realistic scenario that a strong FF+ performance and growth for the EFF in Zamdela could see the EFF finish second in this municipality. The EFF are the official opposition in Bothaville. They will want to make further gains in the maize belt.

Monday, 18 October: Thembelihle (Hopetown) and Renosterberg (Petrusville)

Even an energised, bullish Malema would know that a lot of hard work is needed to improve on their respective one-seat tallies they have in these two sparsely populated municipalities.

Tuesday, 19 October: Ga-Segonyana (Kuruman) and Joe Morolong (Mothibistad)

These are two safe ANC municipalities, but places where the EFF is the official opposition and was able to build on that foundation in the 2019 elections. DM168

Wayne Sussman is an elections analyst for Daily Maverick.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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