Cape Town - The ANC operation to win back the Western Cape kicked into high gear on Saturday as President Jacob Zuma rolled into town for his 72nd birthday celebrations and the party set its sights on winning the “coloured vote”.
At Vygieskraal stadium in Athlone, several thousand ANC supporters turned out to celebrate with Zuma alongside key Western Cape ANC leaders, including provincial chairman Marius Fransman and Deputy Human Settlements Minister Zoe Kota Fredericks.
And if there were any lingering doubts that the ANC was not fully behind Zuma for president, the notion was crushed when a young woman decked in party colours threw her arm around Zuma’s shoulders and belted out Tina Turner’s You’re Simply the Best.
Or maybe it was when representatives of the Cape minstrels handed over a birthday cake bedecked with an iced Zuma face. Make that two birthday cakes. And two marching bands. And three rounds of Happy Birthday.
Much of Saturday’s proceedings was clearly directed at winning over the crucial coloured vote.
“There can be no better place to be on my birthday than the Cape Flats,” Zuma told the cheering crowd at Vygieskraal.
In the 2004 elections, the ANC won 45.3 percent of the Western Cape vote and together with its coalition ruled the province.
But that was as good as it got for the ANC as the DA set about winning the coloured vote in areas like Athlone and Mitchells Plain and succeeded in engineering a remarkable turnaround, winning 51.5 percent as opposed to the ANC’s 31.5 percent in 2009.
Dr Nicola de Jager, a senior lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch’s department of political science, said the province’s coloured population – just a fraction under 50 percent at the last census – had shown itself to be a “strategic voting bloc”.
“I would argue that the key explanation is the demographics and history of the province and the coloured vote in particular,” she said.
In 2009, two out of three voters in Athlone were part of the “blue wave” that saw party leader Helen Zille become premier.
The ANC, which won one in three votes there in 2004, received just over one in 10 votes in 2009.
Mitchells Plain similarly moved from a close contest in 2004 to overwhelmingly DA in 2009, when the party received 80 000 votes there – about one out of every nine DA votes cast in greater Cape Town.
And winning the metropole is key to winning the Western Cape.
“The ANC is your home – you don’t have to be afraid,” Zuma told the crowd. “Some are using swart gevaar tactics… you must listen to the truth.”
His speech ticked all the Western Cape talking point boxes: jobs and promotions for coloured people, support for the minstrels (no – a national heritage route for the minstrels), education, gangsterism, drugs, Grant Pascoe.
“The Western Cape needs a government that will treat the people of the Western Cape equally. Enough is enough with the neglect of predominantly African and coloured areas in this province… There’s nothing to fear. The ANC is your family.”
“The ANC is also clear on its position on Palestine,” he threw in, a zinger at the failed DA-AgangSA merger reportedly engineered by a billionaire businessman with close ties to Israel, a move which contributed to the Al Jama-ah political party declaring it haraam to vote DA.
“The birthday of the president and the burial of the DA” – that’s how one performer, singer John Pretorius, put it.
Heideveld resident Vanessa Adriaanse – who told Zuma he still looked duidelik for 72 – said that just over two months ago, she had been a staunch DA member. And then she was evicted.
“They left me outside with nowhere to go. I was sleeping in a gazebo for two weeks. The ANC came to help me and because of the ANC I can sleep in a bed again.”
Shahida Tollie from Bishop Lavis was also a recent convert to the party after a gang shooting last month left three-year-old Tatum Prins dead. “They (ANC) covered the whole funeral.”
Some 1 400km away in the largely coloured area of Eldorado Park in Joburg, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe also weighed in, saying economic growth in the Western Cape has been reversed under DA leadership.
In the last four years Gauteng, under the ANC, had created 442 000 jobs while the DA had only created 92 000 jobs in the Western Cape, Mantashe charged.
He claimed that most of the Western Cape jobs were for white people.
“That is how racist the DA is, it’s a wolf coming in sheep skin,” he said.
Back at Vygieskraal, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union founder Gregory Rockman reminded the crowd of a time when the “madam” used to make them sit in the back of the bakkie while her dog rode on the passenger seat next to her.
“Do you remember those days? Let’s make a decision today to make a change.”
And then there were Kevin Momberg of the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association and Melvyn Matthews of the Kaapse Klopse Karnaval Association – both throwing their weight and their trumpets and their tambourines and their fedoras behind the ANC.
The party’s Western Cape leader, Marius Fransman, who took up the minstrels’ organisational woes with the City of Cape Town last year, said the DA had used the minstrels in the past to put them in government.
On Saturday, two troupes marched through the stadium in yellow, black and green, wearing T-shirts that read “Cape minstrels vote ANC”.
“This is not a normal rally of the ANC,” said Fransman. “We want to show that the Cape Flats are making a break from the DA.”
Because the ANC cares, added Zuma. “We care about the Kaapse Klopse. We care about the education of children. We care about those who are evicted and don’t have homes… we are ready to bring a better life for all in the Western Cape.”