By Cobus Coetzee, Zara Nicholson and Siyavuya Mzantsi
Cape Town - On the eve of the general elections, a DA MPL and several of the party’s members defected to the ANC, while leaders from the shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali Basemjondolo publicly endorsed the DA in the Western Cape.
Abahlali provincial chairman Siyamboleka James said its 4 500 members in 15 Cape Town informal settlements would be asked to vote for the DA on Wednesday.
The endorsement on Monday came at the same time as DA MPL John Gunda of the Northern Cape became the second senior party member to defect to the ANC in recent weeks.
It also came hours before a number of DA members met in Bishop Lavis to announce their defection to the ANC.
Abahlali leaders made their announcement at the DA’s offices in Cape Town where the movement’s former leader Mzonke Poni said he had joined the party.
A few days ago, community organisation Ses’Khona endorsed the ANC.
Poni has had numerous run-ins with Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille and the city over housing.
“It is a decision that has come from my heart,” he said about joining the DA.
Poni said other Abahlali members were not obliged to follow him.
“I believe the DA is the only opposition party in South Africa that is strong, that is vibrant and can take on the ANC,” he said.
Abahlali national leader Sbu Zikode was also at the meeting after it endorsed the DA in KwaZulu-Natal last week.
“We have been bluffed for too long, there has been so much of empty promises. Toyi-toyi is not enough,” he said.
Zikode said the movement’s members had not joined the DA but merely endorsed the party in the elections.
“We are saying you scratch my back and I scratch your back. We have had enough of 20 years of shack life,” he said.
De Lille said the DA had made a commitment to Abahlali to speed up housing delivery.
Meanwhile, Gunda was welcomed by the ANC provincial leadership at their Cape Town offices. His defection to the ANC came weeks after DA metro chairman Grant Pascoe joined the ANC.
Gunda, an Independent Democrats member when it formed a coalition with the DA in 2010, said: “Since the ID was swallowed by the DA it became clear that the devolved liberal ideology of the DA created a downward spiral for our people.
“The DA talks about democracy, but there is no democracy. Helen Zille is an autocrat.”
He joined the ID in 2003 and was elected to the Northern Cape Legislature in 2004. He resigned in 2008 and was elected as an MPL again in 2009.
Gunda said he had informed De Lille of his defection a few weeks ago and she was not happy.
De Lille said Gunda was fired from the party more than two weeks ago because of his defection.
“In 2010, he was part of the unanimous decision to form the DA/ID coalition. We gave him a second chance after he resigned in 2008,” De Lille said.
ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said: “Coloured DA members have had enough of the superiority attitude displayed by the white liberal clique that runs affairs in the DA.”
ANC provincial chairman, Marius Fransman said: “The Cape Flats was supposed to be a no-go area for the ANC but we have gone into that nerve centre. People in the coloured community are walking away from the DA.”
On Monday night, he introduced 15 DA members who joined the ANC and said the party was also in talks with two DA city councillors and that an announcement on their defection would be made on Tuesday.
Among the DA defectors last night was Ricardo Paulse of Bishop Lavis.
“I’ve been a DA member for 10 years. I’ve had problems with my house’s roof and have complained to the DA. They did nothing and when it rained on Sunday I just had enough. The ANC came and helped me,” Paulse said.