DURBAN - THE ANC leadership, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, will need to take a long, hard look at itself and answer the question: what went wrong with the local government elections?
This is the view of party activists from different parts of the province after the governing party recorded spectacular losses in many municipalities in northern KZN. Many party members and supporters have taken to social media to vent their anger, with some calling for the party’s leadership to resign following its dismal performance at the polls.
An ANC activist from the Midlands, Thanda Zakwe, expressed sadness at the loss of some municipalities, including several to the IFP in northern KZN and one in the uMgungundlovu district which is made up of towns such as Howick, Pietermaritzburg and Richmond. On Tuesday, the DA emerged victorious in uMngeni Municipality, which includes Howick.
Another activist, from Sobantu Township in Pietermaritzburg, Siyabonga Mshengu, decried the arrogance that had been demonstrated by some party members and leaders in the past, saying this had cost the party dearly.
Skhumbuzo Mthembu, of eThekwini region, said those who had voted for the IFP were those who had initially come to the ANC because they identified with former president Jacob Zuma. He said the governing party had never been strong in northern KZN, but that this changed during Zuma’s presidency.
“Remember there was a massive recruitment drive of members when Comrade Zuma was still president, and many of those recruited at the time were staunch IFP supporters. What has happened is that they did not join on principle, but were simply hoping for material gain out of that move. At least now we will be left with real ANC members who are not going to import unknown tendencies to the party.”
But IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the party had grown, and the results showed that it was on a growth trajectory that started in 2019 when it elbowed out the DA as the official opposition in the KZN Legislature.
“Credit must be given to the IFP for running a focused campaign, because surveys were predicting a lower voter turn-out, and we went all out to get people to go and vote in their numbers,” said Hlengwa. He predicted further gains in the next elections, saying this was based on the party’s commitment to clean governance.
KZN ANC spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela dismissed the call for the party’s leadership to resign over its poor performance.
He said the warning signals emerged during the 2019 national and provincial elections when the ANC fared badly in King Cetshwayo, uMkhanyakude and uThukela districts.
“We have lost count as to how many municipalities we have had to visit not to talk about service delivery, but to calm comrades who were not fighting with councillors from the opposition parties, but with fellow comrades,” Ntombela said.
In a media briefing, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said that the low turnout of voters – especially in ANC strongholds – indicated a message that people were disappointed in the party “and we hear that message loud and clear”.
Duarte said the ANC was committed to doing better if given another chance.
University of Johannesburg-based political analyst Sizo Ncube said: “The ANC has demonstrated over the years that it does not have the capacity to self-correct. Hence, I doubt the party will regroup in time for the 2024 national elections. As for the IFP, the party has benefited more from the political paralysis afflicting the ANC than from it’s own mobilisational prowess.”
He added that the ANC leadership was caught flat-footed, leading to a dismal showing in the local elections. The poor performance in these elections, the analyst concluded, would be a trump card for those seeking to challenge the incumbent leaders at both national and provincial levels.