N Cape shapes up as key poll battleground
Can DA take the province in 2014 elections?
AS POLITICAL parties strategise ahead of next year’s crucial elections, opposition parties have set their sights on the Northern Cape – now seen as a new political frontier.
Late last year the DA started actively wooing Northern Cape voters with a view to taking over governance of the country’s largest province next year.
The Northern Cape has long been considered one of the DA’s potential growth areas, and the party has been flaunting its Western Cape successes as its biggest drawcard.
Speculation is rife that Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille might be redeployed to the Northern Cape next year, where she has a big support base dating back to her leadership of the Independent Democrats.
De Lille has even been punted as the DA’s candidate for the premiership of that province, but has so far denied she will move.
But the ANC is unfazed, saying it is confident in its support base in that province. But just to make sure of its majority, the party deployed two Western Cape ANC heavyweights, former NEC members Mcebisi Skwatsha and Lynne Brown, also former premier of the Western Cape, to lead efforts there.
DA Northern Cape leader Andrew Louw said the political landscape in that province was turning in favour of the DA.
“There has been an increase in DA membership; more and more people are volunteering to work for the party and eyes are opening to the fact that the DA is the only alternative to provide proper services in the province, and rid it of the dark cloud of corruption and allegations of maladministration,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brown is convener of the ANC team going to the Northern Cape, and while many say her deployment is a way of keeping both her and Skwatsha occupied and out of the Western Cape ahead of next year’s elections, Brown doesn’t agree.
“I see this move as an attestation of a belief in me, and a confirmation that the ANC is not averse to giving its women members the opportunity to address important national socio- economic and related issues,” she said, adding that being in the Northern Cape did not preclude her from playing a significant role in the Western Cape elections next year.
“And surprises are always possible,” she added.
Brown’s main priorities as co-ordinator for the Northern Cape are to build on the existing strength of the ANC there.
Citing an example of what the ANC’s “Unity in Diversity” had accomplished in the Northern Cape, Brown said that since the 2004 ANC election victory of 68.9 percent, they had seen only a 7 percent reduction in support in 2009, attributed to the emergence of Cope.
This was almost immediately followed by the claimed return to the ANC of 70 percent of Cope members to date.
“The DA is flaunting its Western Cape successes and, in particular, the ‘ Cape Town story’ as a drawcard. But 29 byelections in the Northern Cape recorded 22 victories to the ANC in the last few years. This attests to a strong ANC in the area, despite possible challenges,” she said.
Brown said she was aware that the DA had set its sights on the Northern Cape, adding that she was keeping a close watch, especially on the role De Lille was playing.
But Brown said she wasn’t concerned, since De Lille’s added presence had influenced only one of the 29 by-elections, 22 of which had been won by the ANC.
“In fact, we recently won the Nama Khoi by-election for the first time since 1994, and now we are in control of that municipality.”
Regarding top ANC officials in the Northern Cape facing several charges of fraud and corruption, including the party’s provincial chairman John Block, its treasurer – ANC MP Yolanda Botha – and deputy provincial secretary Alvin Botes, Brown said all allegations of corruption remained a challenge.
“The ANC understands the need to address this problem in the Northern Cape. Currently, the law is taking its rightful course and we must not preempt the outcome. The three members have a right, like anyone else, to fair justice,” she said.
But the DA has been at the forefront of the fight to have Block and Botes removed as MECs.
The DA’s Louw said newly elected Northern Cape premier Sylvia Lucas missed an opportunity to restore the public’s confidence in the provincial government, by not removing the pair.
“Finance MEC John Block and Social Development MEC Alvin Botes have brought the provincial government into disrepute. Both MECs face seri- ous criminal charges in separate court cases, which include fraud, corruption and money laundering.
It is astonishing that even as they make regular appearances in court to face charges, they remain in office, with Block heading portfolios which handle the province’s finances. This situation has gone on for far too long, and has eroded the public’s confidence in the provincial government,” he said.
Western Cape DA leader Ivan Meyer said his party had been busy laying the groundwork for success in the Northern Cape.
Meyer said they decided to intensify their campaign, and would now focus on Kimberley, the Karoo and the Hantam municipal area.
Meyer has made numerous trips there, and he said he was confident of the DA’s prospects.
Other than De Lille and Meyer, Wilmot James and Western Cape premier Helen Zille are also becoming regular visitors to the Northern Cape.
Zille was in the province earlier this month to honour Sol Plaatje, the foremost opponent of the notorious 1913 Native Land Act, visiting his gravesite and the Sol Plaatje museum.
DEPLOYED: Lynne Brown and Mcebisi Skwatsha are part of the ANC’s Northern Cape arsenal.
UNDER A CLOUD: Provincial ANC chairman John Block.
SPECULATION: Patricia de Lille is tipped for a move north.