Johannesburg - The ANC launched its provincial manifestos this weekend, deploying party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver the keynote address at the Gauteng leg to be held in Atteridgeville, near Pretoria, on Sunday.
Political analyst Susan Booysen said it was curious the ANC had decided to deploy Ramaphosa to Pretoria, given recent events, such as the booing of President Jacob Zuma last year and Gauteng provincial secretary David Makhura’s statements last year that the province would request help from former president Thabo Mbeki in wooing voters in the province.
ANC Gauteng spokesman Nat Kekana said Zuma was working in Gauteng, but that he could not be expected to be in the province all the time.
But Booysen said Ramaphosa’s address later today could be viewed as a statement of political divergence from the mainstream ANC which was the “Zuma ANC”.
“You know, Gauteng has a somewhat different political orientation from the Zuma ANC. It is more critical of the main body,” she said.
“The choice of Ramaphosa rather than Zuma could be seen as Zuma-ANC dissidence, but also to benefit the ANC, because voters in Gauteng are central to the (party’s) election campaign. It is a careful statement that there is an alternative in the ANC to Zuma, a view of: ‘Please don’t disavow the ANC because you don’t like Zuma.”
Such a message to Gauteng voters was an imperative.
“The ANC has to do well in Gauteng. Besides in the Western Cape, where the ANC is most at threat, the margins are relatively small.
“The EFF is quite strong in Gauteng, and eats away at ANC support, which could reduce the margin to 50 percent,” she said.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, who addressed the Western Cape’s provincial manifesto launch on Saturday was unequivocal in saying that even if some did not want Zuma as president, he was nonetheless the ANC’s candidate.
She wanted everyone to “understand clearly” that the “president of the ANC was always the candidate of the ANC for the elections”.
“We do not have another candidate and there is going to be no other candidate,” she said.
Of Duarte, Booysen said: “She’s the kingpin of Zuma’s support in the ANC.
“She has a lot of contact with branches and is his principal agent on the ground.”
The ANC in the province has struggled over the last five years to re-launch dysfunctional branches, amid serious financial difficulties and a period of factionalism which has wrecked its leadership.
Provincial chairman Marius Fransman told supporters that only an ANC victory in the province could reverse the DA’s “racist” policies which benefited only the rich.
The official opposition governs both the province and the City of Cape Town.
“We have an army of volunteers to liberate the Western Cape, so that the Western Cape becomes part and parcel of South Africa,” Fransman told the crowds, adding a plea for party unity.
“When the ANC is divided, that decision leads to the downfall of progress,” he said.
“We are calling on every comrade... we must put unity (before) all of us.”
Amid speculation that Zuma was meant to address the Cape Town rally, it was reported that ANC supporters were unhappy about his absence.
But while he was not physically present his face was everywhere - from a giant banner behind Fransman, to the yellow T-shirts of many of those in the crowd of supporters
Booysen said the ANC’s decision not to deploy the president to Cape Town was noteworthy.
“It’s recognition the ANC is not confident in the province. If it had been sure he would find serious acclamation, almost a stampede to see him, they would surely have sent him to Cape Town.
“It is a profound political statement if he was meant to address the manifesto launch and he did not.”