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New ANC leadership in Western Cape struggles to shake off internal challenges that hobble its growth

New ANC leadership in Western Cape struggles to shake off internal challenges that hobble its growth
Deputy Secretary Ayanda Bans (Photo: Nathi Qondile) I ANC activists hang flags on lamp posts in Johannesburg. (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) I Muhammad Khalid Sayed (Photo: Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas) I Vuyiso ‘JJ’ Tyhalisisu. (Photo: Nathi Qondile)

The ANC in the Western Cape continues to grapple with factionalism, a challenge that has hindered its progress and put the party on the back foot in the province. And to date, their reach-out to potential voters has been sluggish.

The ANC Western Cape’s provincial elective conference held 11 months ago, was seen as a pivotal moment for the party leading up to the national and provincial elections. However, with less than two weeks remaining before the elections, the party still grapples with the challenges of the past, despite assurances from its new leadership.

Western Cape is the weakest province of the ANC and when the new leadership was elected in June last year, they said they were up to the mammoth task of uniting the party while also improving the party’s fortunes in elections.

Daily Maverick has seen the party’s canvassing report, revealing a concerning situation. Of the three million registered voters, the party has canvassed/reached only 200,000 — a notably disappointing figure for an organisation aiming to grow its electoral base.

According to the report, the party has a target of canvassing close to 900,000 voters by 22 May — which is next week Wednesday.

Overall, however,  ANC support has been dipping. In the last national and provincial elections in 2019, the ANC garnered just more than 28% of the vote in the Western Cape — down from a high of 45.2% in 2004. The majority party, the DA, attained 55.45% in 2019.

ANC Western Cape factional fights date back to 2007 when they removed former premier Ebrahim Rasool before his term ended. Rasool was recalled as premier following the watershed 2007 Polokwane conference where Jacob Zuma was elected to lead the organisation. Allegations surfaced in 2005 that Rasool was colluding with journalists who wrote favourable articles about him — which played a part in his removal.

The years that followed led to unstable leadership and it was only last year that the ANC’s leagues all had structures.

 

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. This would present a chance for the ANC to get back into the governance of the province. The party has already shown indications of being open to working with the Al Jama-ah and the Patriotic Alliance to remove the DA.

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

Another poll by the Social Foundation Research in April puts the DA above the 50% mark (54%) and the ANC at 23%.

The ANC faces another huddle in the form of other political parties that seem to be growing in the province, namely the Patriotic Alliance, EFF, National Coloured Congress, Rise Mzansi and People’s Movement for Change led by ANC former member Marius Fransman.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Five parties join forces with Gayton McKenzie’s PA to take on DA in Western Cape

Read more in Daily Maverick: Dan Plato ditches DA over policies and Palestine, joins Marius Fransman’s new party

Charismatic ANC Eastern Cape leader Oscar Mabuyane has been roped in to assist on the Western Cape campaign trail. Mabuyane will spend a few days on the West Coast, Overberg and Cape Metro regions campaigning for the ANC. He is targeting people with roots in the Eastern Cape who have come for greener pastures in the Western Cape. The ANC remains the strongest in the Eastern Cape including compared to Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Factionalism

Vuyiso JJ Tyhalisisu is entrusted with leading a highly divided ANC in the Western Cape, following his election as provincial leader less than a year ago. On paper, the party has a formidable top-five leadership because, for the first time in its history, they are all from different regions. Previously, leaders came from the Cape Metro.

The deputy chair Sharon Davids is from Boland, and West Coast’s Neville Delport is the secretary.

Ayanda Bans from Central Karoo holds the deputy secretary position and Derick Appel from Theewaterskloof is the provincial treasurer to complete the top five leadership.

pandor israel icj gaza, ANC

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor. (Photo: Gallo Images / Lefty Shivambu)

Factionalism has remained a challenge for the party in the province and it was evident when there were countless postponements on the announcement of their premier candidate. Daily Maverick understands that three names were submitted to the national office to choose from, namely:

  • Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, who declined the request;
  • Ayanda Bans who is also a member of the provincial legislature and provincial deputy secretary; and
  • Khalid Sayed, Provincial Executive Committee and Provincial Legislature member.

Bans enjoys the support of the provincial chairperson Tyhalisisu while Khalid is supported largely by the supporters of the ANC in the province. Pandor also publicly endorsed Khalid as her preferred premier candidate when she was campaigning for the party in Cape Town.

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa during his campaign trail in the province last week was cornered by supporters of the party in Mitchells Plain to announce who will be their premier candidate.

The party’s normal practice is to only announce their premier candidate after the elections but in the Western Cape, it made plans to announce beforehand, but there were postponements and eventually, the plans were cancelled.

ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbulula was expected to announce Khalid Sayed as their premier candidate but it was cancelled. (Image: Supplied / ANC)

Ramaphosa said to boost their chances of winning back the province, they took a different approach and decided to deviate from the normal practice and announce a premier candidate but the chosen candidate was met with resistance from within the party.

Daily Maverick has been reliably informed that Khalid was the preferred candidate over Bans.

“Soon after the name was recommended we had a flurry before the announcement was even made,” he said. “We had a flurry of views objecting and this I am telling you as the position ensued we had a flurry of different views that came to the fore.”

Ramaphosa said that an ‘outstanding/premium’ number of organisations supported the candidate but several others also came forward with objections.

Daily Maverick has learnt that the factionalists within the ANC have also used ultra-conservative Muslim bodies and individuals up north in Gauteng and some from Cape Town to do their bidding and object to Khalid’s name.

Little has been revealed as to why Khalid’s name faced objection. Khalid supported the Rural for Change slate during the provincial conference but did not stand for any position.

A source close to the discussions said the individuals are even prepared to water down the ANC’s secular approach for factional purposes.

While campaigning in Mitchells Plain, Ramaphosa told supporters that the ANC wanted unity and different views needed to be taken into consideration as they are a ‘consultative party’.

“Many will see this as a weakness but that is who we are,” he said. “Having discussed the matter of comrade Khalid, having been nominated, we felt that we needed to close off the whole consultation process.”

Unknown to Ramaphosa, Khalid was present in Mitchells Plain. When Ramaphosa realised this, he told the audience that he wished that Khalid had not heard what he had said. “We are all comrades, we all want the ANC to win.”

Cameron Dugmore and Ebrahim Rasool, ANC

Cameron Dugmore and Ebrahim Rasool. (Photos: Brenton Geach/Gallo Images)

Cracks showing

Mesuli Kama resigned as an MPL in February but has not left the party. In his resignation letter, he said the party was not ready to govern the province but he will continue to support Ramaphosa as the leader.

“I can state without fear of any contradiction that the ANC, under the current provincial leadership, is not ready to govern in the Western Cape.

“There is a general lack of strategic and visionary leadership, and the majority of the office-bearers have questionable credentials,” said Kama.

On Humans Rights Day, the ANC’s biggest region in the province — Dullah Omar Region (DOR) — staged one of their strongest marches in recent times. Various alliance partners joined the march to raise service delivery issues in the City of Cape Town. Notably, the provincial leader was not present. DOR is led by former Khayelitsha Development Forum chairperson Ndithini Tyhido, a close ally of Cameron Dugmore who leads the ANC in the provincial legislature.

Former ANC Western Cape interim convenor Lerumo Kalako delivered a scathing political report during the party’s elective conference which cited factionalism as the root cause for the party’s failure to carry out its organisational work.

At the conference in June, he said factionalism was sponsored and funded by national leaders. “Factionalism that goes unabated by senior, senior

leaders of the ANC in this province. Factionalism has determined which communities have functioning branches of the ANC and which do not,” he said at the time.

Eleven months later, Kalako told Daily Maverick that factionalism still exists within the ANC, but he has observed some improvement.

“They are trying hard to work together,” he said. “That is why their campaign is visible. There are always be different preferences when it comes to those things [premier candidate], but the fact that three names were sent, it means the decision must come from the national office and after the decision, there can be no disunity.”

After the elections, the party will need to decide who will lead in the provincial legislature because the current leader Cameron Dugmore is headed for the National Assembly. Bans is top of the provincial list while Sayed is placed at four.

DA Western Cape leader Tertius Simmers said the ANC’s failure to announce their Western Cape Premier candidate speaks volumes about the party’s internal disarray. “It begs the question: how can the ANC position itself as a credible opposition force in the Western Cape if it cannot even solidify its leadership to lead the province?”

Simmers added that further evidence of this is the recent resignation of Kama and this underscores the deep divisions within the ANC.

“Such divisions not only reflect the party’s inability to present a united front but also reflect poorly on its capacity to provide leadership that can govern effectively.

“In a province as diverse and complex as the Western Cape, effective leadership is paramount. It requires leaders who are not only competent but also capable of fostering cohesion and a vision for governance. The current state of the ANC in the Western Cape, marked by internal strife and power struggles, falls short of meeting these requirements.”

Political analyst Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast described the ANC in the province as a house that is divided against itself and thus cannot grow.

“What is posing a threat in the ANC is the division,” he said. “There won’t be growth in the ANC in the upcoming elections. The DA can get the job done in terms of clean governance, of course, they have the divide in the have and have nots.”

He added that the ANC even failed to take advantage of the DA’s weaknesses because their focus has always been factional battles.

“There will be a shift in the Western Cape but not on a large scale. This will be caused by the foreign policy posture of the DA. Some Muslim voters are not happy with the DA but then the challenge is that you cannot win elections on the international front while you have domestic failures. The ANC can benefit from that but not on a large scale.”

Repeated attempts to get a comment from the ANC Western Cape leader Vuyiso JJ Tyhalisusu were unsuccessful.  When the spokesperson Khalid was contacted, he referred Daily Maverick to the national office. DM

Gallery

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