Sunday Times

Mashaba’s election mojo is just fine and ActionSA is flourishin­g

Commentari­at gets excited about stadium glitz or new politician­s like a baby who spots shiny set of car keys

- By MICHAEL BEAUMONT Beaumont is ActionSA national chair

● Anyone who has worked for ActionSA president Herman Mashaba agrees that they have never met a harder-working politician. It is not uncommon to get phone calls from him before 7am or e-mails after 10pm to discuss campaign events. It’s a habit he learnt from launching a successful business from the boot of his car, and from being mayor of Johannesbu­rg, where the boundaries between personal and profession­al were blurred as all attention had to be diverted to the project at hand. S’thembiso Msomi’s assertion that “Mashaba’s election mojo goes missing in action” (Sunday Times, February 18) is therefore at best naiveté from a deeply respected media man.

It was not a matter of luck that Mashaba built one of the largest black manufactur­ing companies at the height of apartheid, nor was it luck that in 2021 ActionSA emerged as the sixth biggest political party nationally despite only contesting six municipali­ties. It required hard work and dedication to his mission to achieve what others thought was impossible. In an environmen­t where COPE, Agang and countless others failed, it is the slow and steady commitment and work of a leader that wins the race — not a fly-by-night.

Over the past two weeks, Mashaba has visited three provinces where he engaged with more than 2,000 municipal workers, hundreds of students, small business owners and royal traditiona­l leaders to convince them to vote in the elections. Our conversion rate of people supporting ActionSA after hearing our message is higher than it was in 2021, building on the momentum we had in the municipal elections. This hardly speaks to a man who “has lost his mojo”, but instead is testament to a patriotic South African who is unwavering in his commitment to remove the ruling party and fix this country.

It is this level of on-the-ground activity, winning the hearts and minds of ordinary South Africans, that will win elections — not headlines in newspapers. The large majority of voters are not reached through formal media platforms such as this newspaper, but change their votes through on-the-ground activity. This is where ActionSA’s more than 280,000 volunteers and over 2,000 branches are essential to win elections.

We know that this level of community engagement is unappealin­g to journalist­s and the commentari­at who get excited about the glitz and glamour of stadium events or are distracted by new political players like babies who see shiny car keys. May you be reminded that while the red berets managed to fill a stadium in Johannesbu­rg in the 2021 municipal elections, ActionSA received nearly double the amount of votes they received in the metropolit­an area.

ActionSA, therefore, remains undeterred by the mood swings of the South African media. Every day thousands of Actioners continue the hard — but unsexy

— work of speaking to voters to share the message of hope we have to offer. While opinion polling has always underestim­ated us — as it did in the 2021 municipal elections — we remain focused. What people forget is that no opinion poll in the previous election suggested that ActionSA would achieve any meaningful support. Instead, in the days leading up to elections, the pollsters said ActionSA would struggle electorall­y. An Ipsos poll on September 7 2021 said we were likely to attract 1% support. At the end of September 2021, the Centre for Risk Analysis proposed that our support lay slightly below 1%.

But, on election day on November 1 2021, we proved those opinion polls wrong — achieving 2.36% of national popular support despite running in only six of the 278 municipali­ties. In Gauteng alone, ActionSA achieved more than 10% support in the entire province, even though we had candidates in only three of the nine municipali­ties. We have to keep this in mind.

Opinion polling has struggled to accurately predict electoral support for new political players. This will be the first election ActionSA will contest nationally and there is therefore no precedent for pollsters to make use of. Opinion polling has also often been used as a tool to sway public support or influence donor support ahead of important elections. Numbers have been adjusted or displayed in such a way that it amounts to political engineerin­g. We have repeatedly seen this practice by the official opposition in recent weeks.

That is why I believe a better indication of the support a political party is likely to receive is the result of by-elections. ActionSA, having contested those in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, has proven that it is a breakout star. We are able to take support away from establishe­d political players and galvanise previously unregister­ed voters to go to the polls. This past year, ActionSA received 10% of support in by-elections in Polokwane, Limpopo and deep rural Nongama, KwaZulu-Natal, despite not having competed in those provinces before.

Since the 2021 elections, ActionSA has built a national footprint by appointing credible leaders such as Zwakele Mncwango in KwaZulu-Natal and Athol Trollip in the Eastern Cape, who helped build formidable structures in their provinces. We have disrupted the political establishm­ent that failed to bring real accountabi­lity to the ruling party. We took the president to court to declare load-shedding unconstitu­tional — specifical­ly asking that schools, hospitals and police stations be exempted to ensure that frontline services can continue uninterrup­ted. We forced the multiparty government in Tshwane to allocate additional funding to finally end the Hammanskra­al water crisis and took court action to get the eThekwini municipali­ty to fix its sewerage system. In Ekurhuleni, our motion to insource frontline personnel was passed, and in the Western Cape, we questioned how the deputy speaker could get away with refusing to return a government-owned BMW.

ActionSA is a party on the move. Our inaugural policy conference in September — attended by more than 600 delegates from across the country — energised our supporters. We now have one-of-a-kind policy offerings such as inclusive economic empowermen­t, the first real alternativ­e to the failed broad-based BEE; restoring the rule of law by ensuring prisoners pay their debt to society by working the ground; and unleashing economic growth by, among other proposals, reclaiming abandoned buildings and factories. Our commitment to the multiparty charter (MPC) from its inception means South Africans now have a real chance to remove the ruling party.

The reality is no political party will emerge with 20% electoral support from nothing in their first election. A few hundred posters and small-scale events are not going to build a formidable vehicle to take on the ruling party. We have seen the fly-by-night parties before that gain one or two seats in parliament and end up supporting the status quo and disappeari­ng. ActionSA has proven it is different: we have structures nationwide powered by thousands of volunteers, have proved we can win support, have a clear plan to fix the country and are on track for double-digit support.

 ?? Picture: Theo Jeptha ?? Members of ActionSA march through the streets of Cape Town. The writer believes the party, led by Herman Mashaba, is on the rise and will surpass expectatio­ns in the upcoming polls.
Picture: Theo Jeptha Members of ActionSA march through the streets of Cape Town. The writer believes the party, led by Herman Mashaba, is on the rise and will surpass expectatio­ns in the upcoming polls.

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