Gloves off in Tlokwe fight

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

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.

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