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Campaigners for Zuma’s MK Party make their presence felt during Ramaphosa’s KZN walkabout

Campaigners for Zuma’s MK Party make their presence felt during Ramaphosa’s KZN walkabout
ANC President President Cyril Ramaphosa (centre) carries a young boy during an election campaign at Mariannhill ahead of the May 29 South African presidential elections. 20 April 2024 (Photo: Rajesh Jantilal / AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa spent the weekend in the lion’s den of KwaZulu-Natal, where his predecessor and nemesis Jacob Zuma is popular and has started the uMkhonto WeSizwe Party. Its stated mission is to dislodge the ANC and Ramaphosa from power.

For three days — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — President Ramaphosa was in eThekwini, meeting traditional leaders and doing walkabouts. His mission was to convince undecided voters, strengthen the ANC volunteers and counter the message of the uMkhonto we Sizwe Party, led by former president Jacob Zuma and which has been threatening to eat away at the ruling party’s support base in the province.

Read more in Daily Maverick: KZN provincial battlefield will present a major challenge to ANC’s continued grip on power

Gauteng with just more than 7 million registered voters and KwaZulu-Natal, with 5.7 million registered voters, are considered the primary battlegrounds ahead of the crucial May 29 general elections and opinion polls suggest that the ruling party is likely to lose its majority and even the control of those two key provinces.

Recent polls suggest that the ANC’s grip on power in the KwaZulu-Natal administration could come to an end for the first time since 2004 when the party won the province from rivals Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and it has been further weakened by the emergence of the MK Party, which is recruiting mainly from traditional ANC voters.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Party should never have put Zuma’s interests above its own, says ANC elections head

The ANC had previously admitted that it is facing its biggest threat from the MK party in the eThekwini region, the biggest region in the province in terms of registered voters. Ramaphosa’s campaign from Friday to Sunday evening was mainly focused on the region.

President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed ANC supporters in the KwaMamdekazi area of Marianhill. (Photo: Chris Makhaye)

Hearts and minds

On Friday, Ramaphosa was in the Inanda and Amawoti areas, accompanying volunteers as they went on a door-to-door campaign. Here, roads and bridges have not been fixed since the devastating April 2022 floods, another glaring failure of government. These and other challenges have been exacerbated by ongoing water shortages. Residents complain that the water tankers, if they come at all, are selective about the areas they serve and cannot satisfy their water needs.

Ramaphosa promised residents that their plight is being dealt with and soon their water challenges will be a thing of the past. He also promised to build a school and healthcare facility to cater for the people of Amawoti and the whole Inanda area.

“The clinic is also an issue of budgetary constraints but we also have a mobile clinic that comes here once a week with doctors and nurses,” Ramaphosa said.

It is not known what impact MK would have here but in the November 2021 local government poll, the ANC won the Amawoti ward with 68% of votes.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections hub

Wherever the president went there was a heavy security presence, as MK party organisers made sure to counter the ANC with their own show-up and campaigns, at times trying to drown out ANC volunteers and even the President himself.

On Saturday morning, some supporters of the MK party, who were gathered near the KwaXimba taxi ranks, entered the road and tried to block the presidential convoy but were quickly cleared away.

This is a traditional ANC power base and the home of the ANC’s biggest branch in the country. In the 2021 local government poll, the ANC won 88% of the vote. Its closest rival, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) only registered 5% of the vote.

But it is in KwaXimba that the rival MK party held its first rally in January this year, drawing thousands of supporters, thus demonstrating its crowd-pulling prowess.

Promises, promises

After arriving on a blistering hot Saturday morning, Ramaphosa had briefly conferred with the youthful Inkosi Simangaye Mlaba. As the President was about to lay a wreath at the family’s graveyard, Inkosi Mlaba relayed how his father, Inkosi Zibuse Mlaba, 65, — the former ANC MPL in the KZN Legislature — died in a hail of gunfire at a nearby shopping centre, in Cato Ridge in October 2021.

Ramaphosa presented Mlaba with cattle provided by the ruling party. The President then went on a pre-planned door-to-door campaign. He entered the homestead of 87-year-old Ntombenhle Ngcobo, whose mud house is falling apart.

She told him about water problems, saying that at her age she cannot even go to fetch water from the tankers which come to the area from time to time.

Ramaphosa said her case will be prioritised and the government will build her a brand new home in three weeks.

Ngcobo later said: “I’m glad that the president, the government had come to see me and address my plight. I had always voted ANC in previous elections but this time around I was not planning to vote because I had lost hope. But now I will vote.”

Ramaphosa also spoke to 23-year-old Snethemba Mngwengwe, who said she graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a social worker but has since been unemployed. Here, too, Ramaphosa promised that her plight would be looked into and she would soon land a job in one of the government’s facilities.

Ramaphosa then addressed ANC volunteers gathered at the bottom of the road. He said the ANC has assembled more than 500,000 volunteers nationally, 50,000 in KZN, who are going out to woo undecided voters.

“Many people have told me about the water challenges that you are facing. Minister (of Water and Sanitation) Senzo Mchunu is working very hard to sort the water problems in this area as well as in the whole of eThekwini region.

“We have made our mistakes ……..but our people still have trust in the ANC because they know that it is only the ANC that can deliver for them. Our main focus in the next five years would the creation of jobs,” he said.

He echoed more or less the same message in Nazareth, a peri-urban settlement outside the industrial town of Pinetown, and in KwaMaMdekazi, in Marianhill.

Under shadow of MK Party

On Sunday Ramaphosa’s vote-catching schedule was just as grueling. His first port of call was KwaNgcolosi, an area on the eastern flank of the Valley of a Thousand Hills. He held a little tete-a-tete with the local pro-ANC Inkosi Nkosikhona Bhengu, who was once elected as the head of the KZN House of Traditional Leaders after defeating the late Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Both Ramaphosa and Inkosi Bhengu addressed hundreds of ANC supporters gathered in the local community hall. But the success of their speeches will only be clear on election day. In this area, the ANC’s grip on voters was shaky, even in the past elections. In the 2021 local government poll, the ANC only managed to garner 50% of the vote and the DA won 31% of the vote. MK party supporters were also visible, campaigning on the main road leading to KwaNgcolosi.

MK party, Cyril Ramaphosa

MK party supporters showed their presence in colours as the presidential convoy was passing through. (Photo: Chris Makhaye)

The president’s next stop took him to Mpumalanga township’s Hammarsdale Junction Mall, where everything came to a standstill when his entourage arrived. Ramaphosa targeted shoppers, telling them about the ANC manifesto and how the party plans to affect job opportunities. Later, he addressed scores of ANC supporters but, here, too, MK supporters tried to drown his message out. The MK party has a strong base in the area and many former die-hard ANC activists are now firmly entrenched in the MK fold.

Ramaphosa urged supporters to go and counter the MK party’s narrative that the ruling party has failed.

Siboniso Duma, the KZN ANC provincial chair who accompanied Ramaphosa throughout the campaign trail, said the President’s presence was a “huge boost” for the party as it enters the final days of the elections and that the president and other top ANC national executive committee (NEC) members would be traversing the province in the coming weeks to bolster the party’s fortunes.

Elections analyst Wayne Sussman said it makes sense for the ANC to bring the top guns to stem the tide of electoral loss, especially in the eThekwini region. He said eThekwini accounts for about 35% of all voters in KwaZulu-Natal.

“It is an area where the ANC has performed very well in past elections. eThekwini is the third most populous vote district in the country. President Ramaphosa would like to win back support the party lost to the EFF in 2021 and 2019 and also do what he can to make sure eThekwini is not an area where the MK makes inroads. This visit would also have been designed to prevent any incisions by the IFP.

“KwaZulu-Natal has over 20% of the nation’s voters. It would make sense that after Gauteng, the President would spend the second most amount of time here. He needs to shore up votes for the national ballot and play his part in preventing the ANC losing power in the province,” Sussman said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hendrik Pienaar says:

    Using the government job as enticement for a vote, paid with tax money…..Say no more!!

  • John P says:

    “Ngcobo later said: “I’m glad that the president, the government had come to see me and address my plight. I had always voted ANC in previous elections but this time around I was not planning to vote because I had lost hope. But now I will vote.””

    And right there is exactly the problem, she has basically nothing and the ANC government has failed her from day one. Her answer to her problems was just to not vote at all but now Cyril has met her she will vote again, for the same ANC that has failed her..

    Africa is not ready for democracy and does not understand the principles behind it.

    Long live the King.

  • Random Comment says:

    It boggles the mind that the ANC has ANY support left in KZN.

    Massive and ongoing failures in governance (corruption); service delivery (roads & water); disaster management (floods); safety & security (riots); and economy (raw sewerage in oceans, destroying tourism) are clear for all voters to see with their own eyes.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Be careful what you wish for, voting for a party that even steals its own name.

      …unless of course you hate roads, clean water, electricity and you want no future for your family, in which case mk will be perfect for you.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Easy to make promises and not deliver on them Mr Prez. Its disgraceful that these black politicians make empty promises around election time and sad that the audiences believe them!

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