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Pretoria - The ANC in Tshwane will be courting more white people to join the party and to vote for it during the elections next year.
It has failed to recruit white members in recent years.
According to Tshwane executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, who is also regional chairman of the ANC in Tshwane, the ANC in the Tshwane region has “failed dismally” to attract whites, despite its needing their support for a decisive electoral victory.
Ramokgopa was speaking in a wide-ranging interview with the Pretoria News on Monday, during which he also claimed that the ANC could no longer rely on its struggle credentials to convince voters to vote for the ruling party.
He said that differences among members before the ANC national conference in Mangaung last year were buried when President Jacob Zuma was re-elected.
“The one area where we are failing dismally as a region is to recruit non-Africans to the party. The stats show that we have the biggest number of whites compared with other cities.
“So it is an indictment that we have so (few) white people in the ANC in the region. We are failing in our historic duty as the ANC in Tshwane to ensure that we are seen to be pursuing a non-racial society,” said Ramokgopa.
He was referring to an SA Institute of Race Relations study that found whites made up a larger percentage of the population in Tshwane than in any other major metropolitan area in the country.
He said that a non-racial society was not necessarily measured by the number of people in the party, but by the attitude of the ANC to other races and what it was doing to resolve racial conflicts in society.
“I think there’s a whole lot that we are doing, but it will be bolstered by recruiting as many white people as possible,” Ramokgopa said.
“It also makes sense that when fighting electoral politics, your spread is among as many races as possible.
“So the percentage of white people located in Tshwane are needed for an ANC victory. It’s important that we get to a stage where our politics should mature and see beyond race, by looking at what policies we are propagating and advancing.
“They should look at our track record in government.”
Ramokgopa conceded that the emotive issues in the city, including the changing of street names and of the capital’s name from Pretoria to Tshwane, might be the reason why some white people in the city might have shunned the ANC.
“The thing about emotions is that they go beyond the realm of reason, it is about people’s feelings, association and heritage.
“(Street and city name changes were) another front for a source of conflict. I cannot deny that,” said Ramokgopa.
“But it was never about harming or demeaning the heritage or contributions of other races. Instead it was about affirming the contributions of other sectors of our society, and that is why you have names of Afrikaners, Indians, academics and all other types of people in the new street names.”
According to Ramokgopa, the 2014 elections will be a “performance scorecard” for the ruling party as it can no longer rely on its contribution to the liberation Struggle to secure votes.
“It will be a scorecard of our government over two decades. We must be able to demonstrate to the rest of the city, province and the country that indeed we deserve another opportunity to lead.
“In my own personal view, less emphasis will be on the history. History will always be acknowledged, I don’t think there is any doubt about the ANC’s contribution.
“But we have had 20 years in office. The centre of gravity will shift from our historical, political contribution to our time in government,” he added.
Ramokgopa, whose Tshwane region, along with the ANC in Gauteng, supported a change of party leadership at the national conference in Mangaung, said all differences in the ANC had been buried when the new leadership was elected.
“We showed that there could be those contestations in the party and that once the conference has pronounced, irrespective of what your views are, there’s only one leadership and that leadership in this instance is led by President (Jacob) Zuma. And if there are any elements who think they can exploit the differences that were there before Mangaung, they are ill-disciplined.”
* The second part of this interview will be inside Wednesday’s edition of the Pretoria News.