The ANC is not being given any blank cheques in this election – as hostile voters reject empty promises and demand nothing less than concrete service delivery.
This is what the party top brass has learned the hard way in their election campaign amid hostility from voters everywhere they go.
From dissatisfaction over the controversial fraudulent selection of councillor candidates to failed service delivery promises, voters seemed to be unwilling to merely accept, without being assured, the party would deliver.
Interestingly it is the poor, the heart of the ANC electorate, that are confronting the top leadership with demands for action on unfulfilled promises and unpopular candidates.
At every corner, the leadership campaign trail had seen voters protesting and some holding placards to express dissatisfaction about being short-changed in the past five years by the ruling party.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was the first to be greeted with service-related protests in Soweto and some members in the Eastern Cape raised the question of fraudulent candidate nominations there and elsewhere.
Political economy analyst Daniel Silke identified gradual deterioration of service delivery as the cause of voters’ hostility towards the ANC.
“This time around it’s different because the deterioration of services has been so dramatic that the effect on people’s lives has been so unpleasant that the communities are becoming impatient,” Silke said.
ANC deputy president David Mabuza has become the firefighter in chief who addresses grievances or, at least, promises to attend to them after the 1 November local government elections.
He has been to Qwaqwa in the Free State’s Maluti-a-Phofung municipality, Soshanguve north of Pretoria and Polokwane to listen to demands for the removal of wrongly enlisted candidates.
After promising that the ANC would attend to it soon after the election, Mabuza was allowed to campaign and distribute party T-shirts, doeks and cloths bearing the ANC colours.
Silke said opposition parties had not fared much better, either, in the eyes of the public.
According to Prof Dirk Kotze from the University of South Africa, communities see it as a great opportunity to confront the top ANC leadership.
But dissatisfaction over candidate selection within the ANC was not new as it happened in the 2011 and in the 2016
local government elections. Kotze cited the dispute over Luthuli House’s decision to impose Thoko Didiza as the party’s mayoral candidate for Tshwane against the wishes of the local leadership in 2016.
“That caused a lot of hostility and there were open protests within the ANC in Tshwane,” he said.
As for Mabuza being the chief firefighter dealing with grievances, he was portraying himself as “fixer” of ANC problems.
He was selling himself to the ANC membership so as to be in good stead for the next elective ANC national conference. Another issue Ramaphosa found himself in a dilemma over was when his ally, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, was accused of embezzlement of funds.
Similarly, Mpumalanga MEC for agriculture and rural development Mandla Msibi was charged with two counts of murder involving the deaths of ANC members.
These were matters the party had to answer to as his opponents in the radical economic transformation faction would watch to see if Ramaphosa would act with the same vigour against Mabuyane as he did with suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule and others.