Johannesburg - ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe took the party’s “good story” narrative to Soweto on Saturday and was confronted by angry residents complaining about the Nkandla scandal and corruption in the face of unemployment, especially among youth.
He admitted that corruption was among the problems facing the ANC, but said this was an unintended consequence. “If you open a window (for people to join the ANC), even mosquitoes come in.
“Others come deliberately to cover up and many of them come because they are not committed,” Mantashe said, in an interview with journalists after completing his door-to-door election campaign in Meadowlands.
He had to field tough questions from residents around what the ANC-led government is doing to curb the scourge of drugs and crime. From the elderly, middle-aged and the youth, residents did not hold back in their grievances whenever Mantashe told them to “vote ANC on May 7”.
After a rather restrained encounter with aggrieved residents, Mantashe appeared to lose his temper almost completely when he faced-off with a man who was resolute in demanding answers about the Nkandla scandal, rampant corruption, drugs abuse and the concomitant scourge of crime.
“I have heard all about Nkandla. How do you answer me?” asked the man, William Baepi, who identified himself as a street patroller.
“What have you heard? I need to know, including (what you heard) on the basis of newspapers (reports). The problem is that you didn’t read about the ministers (inter-ministerial) report and the public protector (Thuli Mandonsela)’s report …you read the newspapers,” Mantashe retorted.
Baepi said “I don’t just take somebody’s view (on face value),” prompting Mantashe to reiterate his explanation about the similarities and discrepancies between Madonsela and the inter-ministerial reports on the R245 million security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla residence.
But a determined Baepi was less convinced. “Let me interrupt you there on (this) issue of people eating (misusing) the money. What (punitive) measures have you taken?”
Mantashe then cited the Special Investigating Unit report as among the remedial measures.
Again, Baepi was less impressed. He asked: “Don’t you have a strategy to deal with corruption?”
And then he asked Mantashe why the ANC leaders only visited the township whenever the elections draw closer.
“Tell us. When? We haven’t seen you…” Baepi said, after Mantashe said he had been to Meadowlands twice.
Baepi was not done yet. “I am going to give you two questions. What do you do about drugs and foreigners (in the townships)?”
The dialogue between the two appeared to degenerate into a spat.
When Mantashe explained that solutions have to come from the community as they know the culprits, Baepi said: “Your police officers are taking bribes from the druglords. Don’t come with the issue of community. You stop people who are supplying. It starts with the drug lords. Don’t duck and dive. Come on…Jeez!...don’t dribble. Mr Mantashe, fine. Go!”
A visibly embarrassed and angry Mantashe later approached Baepi. He raged at him. “Talk to the newspapers. That’s what they want.”
Mantashe’s election campaign trail in Meadowlands’ Sanders Road and adjoining streets had taken him through an array of matchbox houses interspersing with the modest, face brick houses and a few mansions. Informal businesses, including tuck shops, pubs, salons, and internet cafes lined the front of the yards along the neatly paved walkways dotted with lush green lawns.
“You can see the difference? Soweto is a suburb. Soweto of today is no longer the Soweto of yesterday,” said Mantashe, while chatting to Zama Makhosana, 25, at her home.
“It’s still a township. Children are still suffering,” Makhosana replied said, to which Mantashe cited the social grants which he attributed to the reduction of poverty.
“Yes, it does, but I don’t think the ANC of the old is the same as the ANC of today because of greed,” Makhosana said.
Mantashe replied: “The ANC of then was a liberation movement, today (it) is a government party. Changes are going to be there. It’s not the ANC that is greedy.”
Unemployment, especially among the youth, featured prominently during Mantashe’s visit.
Asked Queen Paleid, 56: “Our problem is that the youth are not working, and tenders. If there is a tender (winner), he brings people from outside while local youth are not working. At my age, I am not working. When you look for jobs, they say you are old, when you apply for pension, they say you are young. Where must we go?”
Also aggrieved was Zonke Mgudlwa, 35, an unemployed mother of three. “You say we must vote for a better life for all, but it is just for some. A better life is jobs.
“We feel like outsiders, foreigners, non-South Africans.”