A provincial government in South Africa begins and ends with the Premier. The Premier exercises the executive authority, appoints the Provincial Ministers and assigns their powers and functions, and is responsible for implementing provincial legislation. Quite simply, a Premier assembles the government for a province to serve throughout the five-year term, assuming the responsibilities and obligations mandated to the province by the Constitution. As such, in the lead up to every general election, political parties name their candidates for Premier in advance to launch campaign manifestos and inform the province’s voters of the kind of government they can choose to serve them in the next term.
In the Western Cape, the DA named its Premier Candidate, Alan Winde, last year. Other political parties have followed suit: the FF+, ACDP, and even new kids on the block The Cape Party, GOOD, and ATM have named their Premier candidates in recent months. Why then has the ANC, the party hellbent on winning back the Western Cape in the upcoming elections, still not named a Premier candidate for the province?
It was reported earlier this year that the ANC was expected to reveal its Western Cape Premier Candidate on Sunday, 6 January. The day came and went, and yet the party was still languishing over its provincial list, the first of which was nullified by the party’s top leadership after several allegations of corruption and membership fraud came to light. Yet even the second attempt to elect new members was fraught with errors, with a number of sources claiming that several members who placed high up on the lists were removed and replaced by other factional candidates. Just another day in the calamity it seems.
Nearly three months later, and with just over eight weeks to go until election day, an ANC Premier candidate for the Western Cape has yet to manifest, which means the ANC has no manifesto for the province, no consolidated approach to governing the Western Cape, and no clear vision for the next five years of governance in the province. One would think the party has already pre-empted a loss…
So what, or rather, who does the ANC hope will win the hearts and minds of the people of the Western Cape? There are rumours of the imminent return of Ebrahim Rasool, former Western Cape Premier fired by his own party and alleged to have paid journalists by means of cash in brown envelopes to slate his opponents and write stories favourable to the ANC. A charming candidate indeed. As ANC elections head in the province, Rasool recently accused Premier Helen Zille of “recreating an apartheid society in the Western Cape”. I wonder if Rasool is aware that censorship and the manipulation of media freedom, such as paying journalists, was also key to the apartheid regime’s success.
Then we have ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs, who recently referred to the DA’s election messaging as “yet another exercise in sanctimonious self-glorification, obfuscation, lies and pats on the back”. Quite ironic considering that Ebrahim Rasool told the Cape Town Press Club last month that “if you punish the ANC at the polls, then you punish the country”, a statement dripping with sanctimonious self-glorification and the smug self-praise synonymous with ANC politicians. I think it has become quite clear that if voting against the ANC is a punishment to South Africa, then the country is in serious need of a good beating, something the residents of the Western Cape have been aware of for quite some time.
But with such weak potential candidates, surely the ANC has an alternative to woo the Western Cape voter? Indeed they do. In the absence of a Premier candidate, the ANC has is relying heavily on ‘Ramaphoria’ in the Western Cape as an electoral hook. Last week Faiez Jacobs said “South Africa is yearning for Cyril Ramaphosa’s new dawn and for an end to the politics of anger, racism and divisiveness” only to refer to Mmusi Maimane as “that fake African Barack Obama” in the same article.
I think it’s safe to say that all South Africans know how the ANC operates in this regard: preach Nelson Mandela’s dream of non-racialism and unity in their manifesto, only to employ a racial game of divide and conquer to cling desperately to power. Faiez Jacobs makes the assumption that Western Cape residents, and South Africans at large, have forgotten about the ANC’s marriage with Bell Pottinger which deliberately stirred up hatred in our society by pitting races against each other – a campaign entirely endorsed by the ANC, while Cyril Ramaphosa was right-hand man to the president mind you. But of course the voters are too stupid to remember such. And we know Rasool is the expert on creating apartheid societies coming for the party which used a PR firm to divide the country along racial lines in exactly the same way as the apartheid regime.
In any case, even if the ANC did win the Western Cape, it’s not Ramaphosa who would be governing it. Ramaphosa doesn’t even have the time to look at the Western Cape while juggling hundreds of billions of rands in SOE bailouts, trying desperately to find the coal to keep our dwindling power stations burning, and putting on fake smiles to Ministers he knows ought to be sacked but can’t because they know too much.
Not to mention forcing parliament to rise for a 3-month-long recess so he could try and unite the ANC in almost every other province. It can’t be easy when provincial conferences are labelled ‘festivals of chairs’ and the dismissal and reappointment of Premiers and provincial leaders happens on a weekly basis at the passing of a court judgement. The ANC can try sell Ramaphoria all they want, but the Western Cape will hardly see the man if they’re hoping he’s somehow going to magically govern the province.
So if not Ramaphosa, then who? The reality is that if anyone is considering voting ANC in the Western Cape, they still have no clue who they’re voting into Provincial government, less than 9 weeks before a general election. And even more embarrassing than not yet having named a Premier candidate, is having to resort to using the State president to sell your party because your own candidates in the province are so excruciatingly mediocre.
Another one of Ebrahim Rasool’s recent quotes is this: “Come election, we want something good. Not something perfect. And that mandate for the ANC to provide something good will come from the voters and not the ANC”. While Rasool should expect a charge of plagiarism laid against him by Patricia De Lille in the near future, he, and De Lille, should know that good just doesn’t quite make the cut. Good? Really? Sure, it’s a drastic improvement for the ANC, but what an insult to the voters.
In terms of the provincial election in the Western Cape, I’m afraid the ANC has all but fallen flat. I just hope that once their lists are eventually finalised, they will up the calibre of politicians to serve as the opposition and increase accountability. If you want an ANC Premier in the Western Cape, the bad news is the party simply has no one to offer, and that in itself should make you wary of why you want to vote ANC in the first place.
Ryan Smith is Democratic Alliance Head of Research in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament.