Gauteng premier David Makhura has committed government to improve living conditions for residents of Barcelona in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, by mid-2016. File photo: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - Gauteng premier David Makhura has dropped a hint about the ANC’s battle plan to win back support in the province for next year’s local government elections.

Speaking at a Gauteng SACP provincial conference, Makhura told delegates to “occupy the space” in communities to highlight issues – even if it meant leading marches about burst water pipes.

This would ensure the ANC and its alliance partners “closed the space” for opposition in communities ahead of the elections.

He admitted that the ANC was facing “serious challenges” ahead of the elections and warned that leaders could no longer just sit, waiting for people to come and report problems, but must go directly to where there are problems in communities and intervene.

“We must also be mobilising society to take action where there is government failure,” he said, citing a recent ANC-led Soweto march against Eskom’s prepaid meters.

“Some of the protests must be led by our own comrades. It mustn’t be violent, but our comrades must occupy the space (to highlight community issues) so that the enemy forces don’t occupy the space.”

He warned that if the ANC was “missing in action” – including taking part in a protest to highlight a burst pipe – “the enemy would take that space”.

“EFF is not sleeping,” he said. “Even if we can’t get the council to fix the burst water pipe, at least we must be the first ones to highlight it.

“We operate in a period where a large number of our activists are scavengers in other organisations, like the EFF; they give us trouble on the ground,” said Makhura.

When asked to elaborate on the plan this week, he said: “It is not an election strategy, but an important aspect of changing the way government and the alliance related to communities. Radical shift to effect radical socio-economic transformation requires… activist government and grassroots activism among ANC and alliance on service delivery and fighting corruption.

“This was the reason we need ANC and SACP branches to take up community concerns even if it is to march against our government and state, not violent protests.”

ANC Gauteng spokesman Nkenke Kekana also downplayed the move as being the party’s comeback plan for local government elections after its decline in support in last year’s national elections.

Instead, he said marching and mobilisation could not be left to opposition groups that sought to discredit the ANC.

“Mass mobilisation cannot be left to opposition parties and groups that use violence and civil disobedience to isolate and undermine the ANC,” he said. “The ANC must continue to exercise maximum vigilance against forces which seek to subvert social transformation using genuine community concerns. The ANC has mastered electoral politics and grown in experience in government. However, this must not lead to a decline in the mass terrain.”

Kekana said the ANC would “at a particular time communicate its strategy for elections”. But several Gauteng ANC members told Independent Newspapers that mobilising communities was the beginning of the party’s strategy for next year.

Fearing a possible loss of some of the municipalities in the polls, the ANC has begun discussions with its alliance partners to unite them ahead of next year’s elections.

The party experienced a radical decline in its support in the province by more than 10 percent in the fiercely contested economic hub during last year’s national elections. The ANC received 54.92 percent, down from 64.04 percent in 2009.

Makhura said: “As we move to the local government elections we are going to face critical challenges and as an alliance we will have to deal with these issues and confront them so that we remain more united.”

He said in communities where the ANC faced challenges, it was mostly from former ANC Youth League members who had joined the EFF.

“Not only do we have that problem, but we also have – over a long time – former members of the ANC who become volunteers of the DA and… justify it by saying they just want to be paid because the DA pays well.”

Saturday Star