AIC president Mandlo Galo. Picture: TEBOGO LETSIE
AIC president Mandlo Galo. Picture: TEBOGO LETSIE

The return of Matatiele to the Eastern Cape will be just one of the items on the agenda when the ANC and the breakaway African Independent Congress (AIC) meet again in Mount Ayliff on Sunday.

The AIC was formed by ANC activists in Matatiele who were unhappy when the government controversially moved the town from KwaZulu-Natal into the Eastern Cape, following a demarcation exercise.

The party’s colours and logo are similar to the ANC’s. This has given the talks a level of urgency as many ANC supporters are said to have been confused by the similar livery during elections, leading them to vote for the AIC by mistake.

However, the two parties have been in coalition, most notably in Ekurhuleni, the only Gauteng metro that the ANC managed to retain after losing Johannesburg and Tshwane to the DA following last year’s municipal elections.

According to sources close to the talks, the parties will also discuss the modalities of how and when the AIC would return to the ANC fold once the issue of Matatiele has been settled.

They point out that the AIC won 51 council seats in last year’s local government elections, even in areas and provinces where it barely canvassed for votes. Despite not having a huge national platform, the AIC increased its seats from 15 seats in the 2011 local government poll to a total of 51, or 0.45% of the total vote.

The party’s performance was as follows:

• Buffalo City: won four seats;

• Nelson Mandela Bay Metro: one seat;

• Mangaung: two seats;

• Ekurhuleni: four seats;

• Ethekwini: three seats;

• Johannesburg: four seats; and

• City of Cape Town: one seat.

AIC president Mandla Galo this week dismissed claims that the party was negotiating to rejoin the ANC.

"I want to state categorically ... that the AIC is talking to ANC about the issue of Matatiele returning to KwaZulu-Natal and nothing more. When we meet on Sunday we will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on how to resolve the issue of Matatiele within the next few weeks and months so that when the next budget of municipalities is implemented, Matatiele will be already under [KwaZulu-Natal] administration," he said.

He added: "The AIC leadership met at the weekend and reaffirmed the party’s positions as an independent party that is fighting for the aspirations of the people of Matatiele. So we cannot be in talks with the ANC about dissolving ourselves to join it [the ANC]," he said.

ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa said on Wednesday that the only issue that would be on the agenda during Sunday’s meeting would be Matatiele.

"From what we know the meeting will be about Matatiele. That is the official position of the ANC and I cannot talk about anything else," he said.

Bheki Mngomezulu, an independent political analyst and the head of the Mzala Nxumalo Centre, said that having agreed to form coalitions after last year’s local government elections, it was inevitable that the two parties would start talking about merging.

"Such a merger would be more desirable to the ANC than to the AIC. The AIC has ... similar initials and logo [to] ... the ANC. There is no doubt that some of the ANC voters voted for the AIC thinking they were voting for ANC. The AIC received seats in far-flung areas such as Umhlabuyalingana in northern [KwaZulu-Natal] and in rural parts of the Free State, Mpumalanga and even in the Western Cape.

Mngomezulu said: "The AIC is also helping the ANC to retain power in key municipalities like Ekurhuleni. As the ANC continues to shed support to the opposition parties, it is wary to lose some of the votes due to confusion, hence it would dangle [a] carrot in the way of the AIC leaders, enticing them to return home and fold their own party."

© Business Day

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