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ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS

Palestinian solidarity, grassroots politics reviving Western Cape ANC — ‘young lion’ Nonceba Mhlauli

Palestinian solidarity, grassroots politics reviving Western Cape ANC — ‘young lion’ Nonceba Mhlauli
The ANC Youth League’s ‘young lion’ Nonceba Mhlauli. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

Nonceba Mhlauli, an ANC Youth League member likely to be headed for Parliament after the 29 May elections, has made a bold prediction that the ANC will win 60% of the vote – something the party last achieved a decade ago.

While polling data suggests the ANC will see a decline in electoral support in the coming elections, one of the party’s youngest members, Nonceba Mhlauli, believes otherwise.

Mhlauli, 34, a former spokesperson in the Presidency, was one of three “young lions” (under the age of 35) to be elected on to the ANC’s national executive committee at Nasrec in December 2022.

The ANC appointed her as the convener of its national task team in 2021 to, among other tasks, revive and take the league to its conference. The ANC considered this decision historically significant because a woman had never been given the top position in its youth league.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

She hails from the town of Upington in the Northern Cape. Her grandfather and uncle were members of Umkhonto weSizwe and her aunt was a member of the ANC Women’s League.

The ANC finds itself in an unfortunate position where a former leader, Jacob Zuma, has taken up with a rival party — and some will identify with that leader. There is a lot of unhappiness with the government; the unemployment rate is high, crime continues to ravage the country and the cost of living has shot up, making it almost impossible for many citizens to sustain themselves.

anc nonceba mhlauli election

Nonceba Mhauli says the ANC still has the best plan for the country and that the opposition has failed to present a convincing case to woo voters. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

Despite this, Mhlauli maintains the ANC will win 60% of the vote come 29 May, a feat the party last pulled off a decade ago. In the previous general elections, the ANC achieved 57.5%.

She said that looking at the three biggest opposition parties, the ANC still had the best plan for the country and that the opposition had failed to present a convincing case to woo voters. 

Opposition parties such as the DA, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, Spectrum National Party, United Independent Movement and Independent South African National Civic Organisation have come together under a Multi-Party Charter in the hope of ousting the ANC.

Mhlauli said: “The ANC’s plan for South Africa is a plan that is all-inclusive; it is a plan that speaks to the realities of each South African and it’s a plan that looks at how we ensure that we continue on the transformation trajectory that we have put in place over the last 30 years.”

She added that the elections were coming at a time when the ANC was at its most united, with their leagues (women, youth, veterans and provincial structures) firmly in place. 

Mhlauli said the ANC was not oblivious to the daily suffering of citizens, but argued that South Africa was in a better place than it was before 1994. 

“We have never said that we are perfect,” she said. 

“We stand for the black and previously disadvantaged masses of our people to ensure that we deliver a better life for all. Are we there yet? No. What we are saying, going to these elections, is that we have done a lot over the past 30 years and we want to continue to work with the people of South Africa to do more.”

Threat of MK Party

The endorsement of the MK Party by former president Jacob Zuma threatens the ANC. But Mhlauli said this was not the first time in the party’s history that a former leader had left to form and campaign for another party.

She said the ANC was in the process of renewal and that some people would not stand the test of the process.

“There are other real contenders as well (not just the MK) that we shouldn’t say are not a threat to the ANC. But the ANC is recruiting a lot of new voters too.” 

Western Cape chances

The Western Cape is the only province out of nine that is not run by the ANC. The status quo is likely to remain the same after the elections as the ruling party struggles to make inroads there. 

The ANC governed the Western Cape for 10 years before being booted out by the DA.

anc nonceba mhlauli election

Nonceba Mhlauli has made a bold prediction that the ANC will win 60% of the vote – something the party last achieved a decade ago. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

During the party’s provincial conference last year, ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula pleaded with the Western Cape leadership to get its house in order and be an effective opposition party. He said the DA was governing without being challenged.

Now, with a provincial structure in place, Mhlauli believes they have a better chance of getting the DA below 50%.

“Where we are right now, we are suitably placed in the Western Cape, and you can see it with the work we have done in terms of the Palestinian solidarity movement. You can see that we have a lot of grassroots politics which we have not had for many years.”

The ANC is also considering working with smaller parties such as Al Jama-ah, Good Party and the Patriotic Alliance to dethrone the DA in the only province led by the blue party.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Changing of the guard? Small parties snap at DA’s heels in Western Cape

The DA won 51.46% of the vote in 2009, rising to 59.38% in 2014 and dropping to 55.45% in 2019. 

An Ipsos poll from October 2023 put the DA’s support in the upcoming elections at only 44% and suggested there was a possibility of a coalition government in the province.

Majority maintained

Political analyst Asanda Ngoasheng said she did not expect the ANC to increase its support in the coming elections, but said it was likely to maintain its majority.

“I do agree with what they are saying, that the opposition has failed to present a compelling case. The moonshot pact [Multi-Party Charter] by the DA has had the opposite effect in that, instead of making people move more towards opposition parties, it made people who do not like either the ANC or the DA to now look at other political parties and therefore cancel those that are now partners to the moonshot pact.”

Additionally, she said even the rise of the MK Party might not be much of a threat to the ANC as people are unlikely to vote for a party that uses threats of violence to gain support.

“The MK will get some seats, but it will not get as many as it anticipates because the people of KwaZulu-Natal, where they are hoping to get a majority of support, do not like political violence… it has had a personal cost for them from the 1980s until now.”

Ngoasheng believes the ANC is likely to retain Gauteng as the DA is not performing any better in that province.

“The DA has Tshwane and there isn’t a visible difference between the destruction you see in Johannesburg and what you see in Tshwane. So, people in Gauteng have experienced both ANC and DA governance and they do not like either.” DM

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