Gloves off in Tlokwe fight
Six independent municipal candidates, in downtown Potchefstroom, North West, are planning victory in a small, sparsely furnished office in an old building. It is the nerve centre of their mission to take on the ANC in the hotly contested Tlokwe by-elections on Wednesday. The room bristles with confidence. “This is where we are cooking victory. We may not have much, but we’re going to give the ANC a run for their money, and our assessment from the mood on the ground is that the ruling party stands no chance against us,” said David Kham, the election coordinator for the independents.
However, the vote-grabbing patronage the ANC dispenses is worrying them.
Kham said food parcels were distributed in contested wards in a government service blitz this week.
“People in ANC T-shirts were seen walking side by side with government people handing out food parcels. Tlokwe municipality vehicles were also used in cleaning campaigns in the same wards,” he said.
“We don’t really have a problem with sudden service delivery flooding in to the contested wards. Our problem is the ANC members who are clearly not ashamed to wear party colours in what is supposed to be a government occasion. It is clear that they are saying to voters it is the ANC that is bringing them services.”
Kham said the “independents are for the people, not politics, and it is for this reason that we have been well received and victory is certain”. The ANC was bullish too. “We’ve done lots of groundwork and there is no pressure on our side. People have been welcoming us into the houses during campaigns and we’re getting back our wards on Wednesday,” said the party’s local election coordinator, Thabo Mosiane.
The ANC will have to secure at least five wards to win the battle of the Tlokwe Local Municipality.
Vacant seats in the council were initially created when the ANC removed its own councillors. They had been found guilty of joining forces with the DA in a successful motion to unseat mayor Maphetlhe Maphetlhe. Annette Combrink of the DA replaced him. And the fight was on. Aaron Mohlope and Johanna Xaba are former ANC councillors of the group that was expelled by the party in 2013. Now they campaign under the banner of the independents. Mohlope accused the ANC of using its power to dominate the campaigns. “They are suddenly using municipal vehicles to clear illegal dumping sites, but only in wards where there are by-elections. This is abuse of state resources,” he said.
The independent candidates were planning to formalise their complaints.
“State resources are being used to campaign and we still have a problem with a voters’ roll where some voters have no addresses. We have raised this with the electoral commission and we’re preparing to file with the election courts in a bid to stop the ANC from abusing state resources and get the IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] to authenticate voters,” Kham said.
Mosiane challenged Kham and the other independents to provide evidence of this purported abuse.
“We’re not using state resources anywhere. They must substantiate their claims with evidence,” he said.
The IEC released a statement this week saying the court order “did not require the electoral commission to verify the addresses of voters”. “It specifically noted that the absence of an address for a voter did not invalidate that voter’s registration or participation in an election.”
There were seven Tlokwe wards contested in fresh by-elections after the Constitutional Court set aside the outcome of the 2013 by-elections. The court said they were not free and fair amid complaints of voters’ legitimacy. On Wednesday the wards are being contested by 21 candidates. Kham said a coalition with other opposition parties after the byelections could not be ruled out. The ANC has 22 seats out of 52 in the Tlokwe council. The DA has 19, the Freedom Front has two, Congress of the People has one and another is occupied by an independent.
The ruling party’s national leadership considers Tlokwe to be one of the party’s headaches, and the ANC’s top brass was set to visit the troubled municipality this weekend to mobilise support. Meanwhile, in Ikageng township, there were parked German sedans, and men and women in ANC colours milling around the party’s constituency office. This is the coordination centre of the governing party.