N Cape shapes up as key poll bat­tle­ground

Can DA take the prov­ince in 2014 elec­tions?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - WARDA MEYER

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.

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