ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on the campaign trail ahead of local government elections on November 1. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI/THE SUNDAY TIMES
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on the campaign trail ahead of local government elections on November 1. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI/THE SUNDAY TIMES

President Cyril Ramaphosa took the fight for votes to Johannesburg’s townships on Monday, telling voters the ANC is on a journey of self-renewal and that it is dealing with the power crisis dogging SA.

Ramaphosa campaigned in Orange Farm, Soweto, Alexandra and Diepsloot, where he was met by protesting ANC supporters who threatened not to vote for the party due to nondelivery of basic services such as electricity and housing.

The supporters were also unhappy about the party’s candidate selection process, which was marred by disputes, allegations of vote rigging, manipulation and violence at branch level that have included shootings and killings.

Though the ANC plans to resolve the long-standing disputes after the elections, the party hauled disgruntled branches to a meeting recently to iron out alleged list manipulation in a bid to avoid losing further electoral support.

Reliable supplies of water and electricity have become key election issues, with opposition parties often highlighting the ANC’s poor track record in the municipalities it governs.

There are fears the ANC could lose by a bigger margin in this election, with polls showing declining support for the country’s two biggest political parties, the ANC and DA. The ANC lost control of the metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay to DA-led coalitions in the 2016 municipal elections. DA mayors currently run the metros of Cape Town, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.

On his election campaign in Johannesburg on Monday, Ramaphosa sought to downplay the electricity crisis dogging the country, saying even the world’s economic powerhouse, the US, has gone through a power crisis. SA, Africa’s most industrialised economy, was going through its own “phase” of electricity blackouts.

He pointed out that the country’s power stations are old and overwhelmed, resulting in demand exceeding supply, and also blamed illegal connections for the crisis. His comments come as power utility Eskom implemented stage 2 load-shedding from Saturday to replenish emergency generation reserves for the week ahead.

“The supply of electricity is a nationwide problem,” Ramaphosa said in Orange Farm. He told the party faithful that Johannesburg mayor Mpho Moerane knows all about their service delivery challenges and will work swiftly to address them. He added, however, that he was not making any promises.

“I can’t give you any promises, the only promise I can give you is the mayor [Moerane] because he has convinced me that he will better the lives of people of Orange Farm. This is not linked to elections at all,” Ramaphosa said. He would come back to the area after elections to see what progress had been made in tackling some of the service delivery challenges.

“Johannesburg must go back under ANC control. For that to happen we rely on Orange Farm, that’s where most of the ANC support is,” the president said.

Johannesburg is the country’s richest municipality and contributes nearly 20% to GDP and about 40% to the economy of Gauteng. The city has a budget of R73.3bn for 2021/2022, aimed mostly at service delivery.

Linda Ndebele, a community activist who led a group of disgruntled ANC supporters in Orange Farm, told Business Day: “We don’t have electricity. It’s been three years now, and these people are coming here to campaign for votes. They always lie that they are addressing the problem but don’t do anything about it, they are born liars.”

Ramaphosa was accompanied on his election trail by Gauteng premier David Makhura, Moerane, Johannesburg speaker Nonceba Molwele, and finance MMC Matshidiso Mfikoe, among others.

In all the townships he visited, Ramaphosa read from the same script, telling the same jokes, calling on people to vote for the ANC because there was no alternative. He told the ANC supporters he knows about their socioeconomic challenges and called on the party’s candidates to be on the ground once elected and tackle service delivery challenges in their communities.

“There is no future without the ANC. There is nothing else without the ANC,” he said. “There is no family without problems. We are here to stay. This is our family.”

The ANC will field 9,405 candidates nationally to contest the local government elections on November 1.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za

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