aiez Jacobs, who surprised many when he was elected as the provincial secretary of the ANC in the Western Cape last weekend, is taking controversial National People’s Party councillor Badih Chaaban up on his challenge.
Chaaban – whose working arrangement between his party and the ANC went sour in Oudtshoorn – took to Facebook shortly after the new ANC executive was elected to write: “If the newly elected [provincial executive committee] gets more than 33% in next year’s elections, I will chop off my c**k in public in Adderley Street on a busy Saturday morning.”
“So his d**k will be cut off … and you can quote me on that,” Jacobs told City Press this week in one of his first interviews as provincial secretary.
Jacobs caused a shock when he emerged from nowhere to win the provincial ANC leadership race, albeit by a small margin, beating favourite and incumbent Songezo Mjongile by six votes. Many were left asking: “Faiez who?” “I am an old comrade,” Jacobs told City Press. “I have always been a loyal member of the ANC. I am not a Johnny-come-lately. I’m someone who has been in the organisation for a very long time.”
Jacobs’ activism started in the 1980s when he was a student activist in Mitchells Plain on the Cape Flats. In 1989 he became the general secretary of the Western Cape Students’ Congress.
He later joined the United Democratic Front and was involved in the defiance campaign in 1989. He ended up in Victor Verster Prison as a political detainee at the age 15, at the same time future president Nelson Mandela was there.
“We were a group of young high school pupils in a maximum security prison when Mandela was starting to lead the negotiations there,” he said.
Jacobs was also involved in Umkhonto weSizwe structures. In 1994 he worked as the youth and student volunteer coordinator in the ANC’s election campaign.
Jacobs said the time had come to give back to the ANC. He compared the party to South Africa’s national soccer team, saying: “There are a lot of diehard loyal people, but the ANC is almost like Bafana Bafana. We all love the team, but we are not putting the best one in place,” he said.
“I am one of those people who is saying the ANC has been good to me, brought me these skills. I know how to chair a meeting, I know how to organise, I know how to speak publicly. I have all these skills because of the people’s organisation. “So I want to plough back.” City Press understand that Jacobs is taking a huge salary cut in becoming the provincial secretary, but he wouldn’t talk about this.
He is working out his notice period at the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, where he has been “monitoring” municipalities as part of government’s “back to basics” team. He boasts that he knows the ins and outs of what municipalities should do.
“Now my challenge is to bring those standards of practice into the organisation,” he added.
Jacobs and his leadership team are facing the challenge of uniting the ANC in the province while trying to win back the Western Cape and Cape Town, the only major city not governed by the ANC.
The party also wants to win back the coloured vote and revive ANC branches in those communities.
This issue was at the core of re-elected provincial chairperson Marius Fransman’s political report, which he delivered to the conference last week.
“In most instances, structures were [nearly destroyed by] internal divisions and many members and supporters, both African and coloured, left to form and join other political parties or became politically inactive,” said Fransman. “Voters perceived our organisation as a crude Africanist one rather than [one promoting] revolutionary and progressive Africanism premised on nonracialism, which our movement was founded on and survived on for more than a century,” said Fransman.
He said this had led to many coloured supporters punishing the ANC and not voting for it in 2009.
Asked about his plans to win over coloured voters and the revival of the ANC in coloured communities, Jacobs said: “It makes sense to have a strategy, but I am not a coloured nationalist. I am a democrat. I am a nonracialist. So I don’t want to be used in ethnic mobilisation. We need to ensure we don’t do that.”
He said there was a need to “take away a victim mentality”, especially in coloured communities.
“On the Cape Flats, there is a perception that the ANC only cares for Africans, and it is only them who get jobs. On the other side, there is the DA that has this thing that all blacks are corrupt.
“Let’s get rid of those stereotypes. They keep people enslaved mentally,” he said.
Jacobs has just less than a year left before local government elections are held.
Few commentators predicted that Faiez Jacobs would be elected the new ANC Western Cape secretary