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Thabo Mbeki on Soweto charm offensive as ANC ‘unleashes’ senior leaders

Thabo Mbeki on Soweto charm offensive as ANC ‘unleashes’ senior leaders
Anastasia Dube (80, left) and Lawrence Xaba (70, centre) greet former president Thabo Mbeki (right) at Jabulani Mall in Soweto on 25 April 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Despite having expressed discontent several times about the state of the ANC, former party president Thabo Mbeki championed the governing party on the campaign trail in Soweto on Thursday.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, flanked by the ANC’s Johannesburg leadership and provincial bigwigs, was on Thursday welcomed by hundreds of Soweto residents, young and old, at Jabulani Mall.

mbeki soweto

Former president Thabo Mbeki (centre) with ANC leaders during an ANC campaign at Jabulani Mall in Soweto on 25 April 2024.(Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Many residents chanted his name. Others just wanted a handshake from the former president, who was surrounded by his security detail at all times. 

Mbeki acknowledged the ANC’s faults and spoke of members who had tarnished its reputation. However, he urged the crowd to vote for the party in the general election on 29 May.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

“There are those who are corrupt who are part of the party. We need to get rid of them. I will urge you Sowatans, when you go to the polls, do what you are supposed to. 

mbeki jabulani mall

Former president Thabo Mbeki shakes hands with ANC supporters at Jabulani Mall in Soweto. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

mbeki jabulani mall

ANC supporters sing during former president Thabo Mbeki’s ANC campaign at Jabulani Mall in Soweto. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“I am grateful for the reception I have received. I was happy to see the faces of the people. They are confident that the problems you are facing are going to be solved. So, when I tell you to vote ANC, it is because we have solutions,” Mbeki said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Can Thabo Mbeki make the ANC great again? It’s complicated

Mbeki has in recent years openly criticised the ANC and its president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Last year he wrote a 17-page letter to ANC deputy president Paul Mashatile in which he took issue with the party’s decision to block parliamentary inquiries into former Eskom boss André de Ruyter’s claims that cartels and corruption were hobbling the utility.

He also compared the Phala Phala scandal involving Ramaphosa with the Nkandla saga which took down former president Jacob Zuma.

mbeki address soweto

Thabo Mbeki addresses ANC supporters at Jabulani Mall in Soweto on 25 April 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

In his 2023 letter, Mbeki quoted from Ramaphosa’s August 2020 anti-corruption letter: “The ANC may not stand alone in the dock, but it does stand as accused number one.” 

Referring to Phala Phala, Mbeki said: “None of the questions has been answered”.

Mbeki has also criticised the quality of members the ANC was attracting and suggested that the party’s membership be reviewed.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Meeting with ANC top brass and Mbeki over Phala Phala rebuke was ‘comradely and collegial’

The ANC’s head of elections, Mdumiseni Ntuli, emphasised the importance of Mbeki campaigning for the party.

“It is a very important intervention because he is not only a senior in the party, he is a highly respected leader of the people across all sectors of society. So, to have him going out and engaging with the population is going to help the ANC,” Ntuli said.

‘Unleashing’ senior leaders

He said the organisation was accelerating its campaign, with the likes of former National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, former president Kgalema Motlanthe and former deputy president David Mabuza campaigning for the party.

“The core that leads our campaign are the volunteers of the ANC in every corner of the country, but in order to maximise the great deal of work they are doing and unleash the most senior leaders, we are working on their own itinerary. 

“It is a tough election, but the remaining 30 days or so are sufficient for the ANC to garner support in order to win on the 29th May,” he said.

The ANC is determined not to slip beneath the 57.5% it obtained in 2019, and with just over a month until the elections, a key aspect of the party’s campaign is deploying senior leaders to mobilise its base. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC confident it will secure 57% of electoral votes despite looming MK party threat

mbeki constance pogiso

Constance Pogiso attended former president Thabo Mbeki’s visit to Jabulani Mall. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Constance Pogiso, a resident of the Snake Park informal settlement in Soweto was there to meet Mbeki. “The service delivery is not that good. We hope that the ANC will give us better service delivery this time around.  I am inspired by Thabo Mbeki, he is my role model,” he said.

mbeki anc motumi

Pulane Motumi said she would vote for the ANC. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Pulane Motumi lamented the ANC’s failures.

“In my ward, we have issues with electricity. Our power is switched off without consultation. The ANC is an organisation we have been there for; it’s just that the people in power are the ones who are destroying the party with their corruption and money laundering. But what can we do? It is our party.”

Thabang Rathota fully supports the governing party: “The former president being here, it shows the veterans still believe in the ANC. I think it’s 50/50 because in some areas the ANC is succeeding; the R350 grant helps us. There are challenges like the rising price of food.”

Nhlanhla ‘Lux’ Dlamini backs the ANC

Former Operation Dudula leader Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini was at Jabulani Mall. He said he had thrown his weight behind the ANC. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Former Operation Dudula leader and the president of the Soweto Parliament, Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini, moved through the mall with the ANC leadership on Thursday.

He has thrown his weight behind the ANC, claiming that it is the preferred party for Soweto residents.

“It is a vote of confidence for the ANC. I am a leader that is given the mandate by the people and majority of the people in Soweto. Whether Twitter loves it or not, the people of Soweto love the ANC. I cannot go west and then the people go east; I must lead them to where they want to be. Where I am standing, it looks like victory for the ANC.

“I am very happy, given the state of Soweto compared to … other communities. Soweto functions better than many other places in SA. I am not saying that we should go home and rest — we should continue to hold people accountable. That is what we as the Soweto Parliament do,” he said.

Statistics published by the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) show that the largest number of registered voters in Gauteng hail from the City of Johannesburg, which includes Soweto.

They make up 35.91% of registered voters in the province, which makes areas like Soweto, which has traditionally been a stronghold for the ANC,  crucial in the election.

Independent elections analyst Wayne Sussman said, “Soweto is the largest township in South Africa. It’s also got major historical importance and it is where President Ramaphosa votes — and many leaders in society will be voting there also. 

“Let’s not forget, in 2021 you saw the ANC lose significant ground in parts of Soweto — in some places to the EFF, in some places to ActionSA.” DM

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