AFRICANGLOBE – As South Africa’s ruling party kicks off its election campaign in Mpumalanga with a rousing, jubilant crowd, a buoyant ANC used its Mbombela stronghold to kick off a confident election campaign.
It snubbed a poll revealing that South Africans’ support for the party has dropped to a 20-year low of 53%.
But 500km away in Nkandla, ANC members clashed with Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and some were arrested.
Malema used the launch of the ANC’s manifesto to draw attention to an issue the governing party has tried hard to bury: the splurge of R208 million on the president’s homestead.
While the most generous analysts peg EFF support at 7% at the election, the race is set to be dominated by the skirmish between these two parties – a clash of the ANC’s Black, green and gold, and the EFF’s red and black.
In its semiannual Pulse of the People study, which was conducted in November but released yesterday, Ipsos, a market research firm, revealed that the ANC had shed almost a fifth of its support.
Before the 2009 elections, the survey by Ipsos pegged the party’s support at 63%. The ANC scored 65.9% in those elections.
ANC policy head Jeff Radebe said yesterday that the party was not worried about the findings of the Ipsos report.
“We are confident as the ANC that the ANC is a people’s organisation … The crowds that are here in Mbombela Stadium and around the country are a reflection that the ANC is still a popular organisation,” he said.
“Even last time, people said the ANC dropped in percentage terms in 2009, but what they forget to say is that there were 1 million more people who voted for the ANC in 2009 than ever before.”
State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele suggested that the more criticism the ANC received in the media, the stronger its support would be.
“I estimate we can even get as much as 75%,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the party’s election manifesto gala dinner on Friday night.
The ANC’s own poll results are expected to be presented at its national executive committee (NEC) meeting next month.
Data from Ipsos suggest the ANC lost significant support between November 2012, when 61% of respondents said they would vote for the party, to 53% in November last year.
Ipsos public affairs director Mari Harris said the death of former president Nelson Mandela, which occurred after the polling, could affect the real figures.
But she attributed the loss of support to factors like “political uncertainty, leadership issues, the aftermath of the Marikana shootings, the issues about Nkandla, service delivery protests and the forming of new political parties”.
This week, the NEC again decided it would continue with Zuma as the face of the party’s election campaign and tough out the imminent release of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into the R208 million spent on security upgrades at his Nkandla home.
An NEC member said there may have been a group of people in the committee intending to push for Zuma to step down, but they were pre-empted by Zuma loyalists.
“We said we know that there are people who want to do this, but they kept quiet [at the meeting]. They are pushing on the sides, but we raised it in the meeting,” said the NEC member.
On Friday night, Zuma also took a swipe at those in Cosatu who criticised the National Development Plan (NDP), saying: “What a success. It doesn’t mean we will all agree on it, and it will be influenced by the passage of time, but it is our plan.”
Cosatu’s first deputy president, James Tyotyo, said Zuma’s strong push for the implementation of the NDP was not a snub and there was consensus on how to deal with the “problematic” sections.
It was revealed that the political peace of the weekend was carefully scripted by crime intelligence officers.
This was to prevent a rehash of the booing Zuma suffered at Mandela’s memorial last month.
Crime intelligence officers had met since late last month to plan their strategy around the launch.
A crime intelligence insider said that although the meetings centred on the security of Zuma and the top ANC leadership, officers were openly told that “unruly elements” should be prevented from attending the launch.
Crime intelligence suggested that every person or ANC member attending the event should be screened.
Each one would have to present an identity document and would only then be registered.
Each person would be allocated a seat in a particular section of the stadium, which would make it much easier to identify “troublemakers”, according to the source.
An intelligence source in Mpumalanga said they had picked up information that ringleaders of a plan to boo Zuma were recruiting EFF members to wear ANC T-shirts and help them.
“These EFF members were approached by the local disgruntled group of ANC members who don’t only want to boo the president but also the premier [David Mabuza],” said the intelligence source, who was party to planning meetings.
A senior EFF member, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that ANC members had asked them to help disrupt events this week, but they got cold feet when provincial ANC officials began telling them that they knew of the plan.
Disgruntled ANC members said several protests were stopped after they were approached by crime intelligence officers.
One member said they were individually phoned or met by officers.
“Crime intelligence was harassing us and we had to withdraw because we were told that should we be found booing, we’ll be arrested,” the member said.
By: Sabelo Ndlangisa, Carien du Plessis, Sizwe sama Yende and Jacques Pauw
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