CAPE TOWN — More and more African National Congress (ANC) members in the Western Cape are now fed up and are joining the Democratic Alliance (DA), the party’s provincial leader Ivan Meyer said at the weekend.
The ANC is desperate to win back the Western Cape, not least because it is the only province that the party does not control. But the DA has vowed to work to retain control, add another province under its belt and increase its national support to 30% from 2011’s 24.3%.
The ANC lost the Western Cape in 2009 when infighting in its ranks divided it along racial lines.
Mr Meyer said at the weekend that 250 ANC members had recently resigned from the ruling party and joined the DA in Mossel Bay. This suggested that the DA was poised to retain control of the Western Cape in next year’s general elections.
After the ANC lost the Western Cape, South Africa’s second-wealthiest province, in 2009, the party’s headquarters disbanded the provincial executive committee in a bid to resolve the divisions plaguing it. But the ANC in the Western Cape has continued to exhibit signs of division under the leadership of provincial chairman Marius Fransman, as recent events in Oudtshoorn would suggest.
ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile on Sunday dismissed Mr Meyer’s claims that "more and more ANC members in the province were joining the DA" as untrue. "They are inventing these figures ," Mr Mjongile said.
"They have been recycling this story for some time now. We were recently in Mossel Bay and no ANC member has joined the DA, because of the extent of racism there.
"The problem with the DA is that when they recruit black people, they think they are recruiting from the ANC ... they cannot differentiate between black people and the ANC ," he said. Recent by-elections had shown that the ANC in the province was growing its support base, Mr Mjongile said.
He acknowledged that the ANC faced challenges in Oudtshoorn, but vowed the party " will root out the bad elements".
Last week, Mr Fransman just escaped being beaten up by an angry crowd in Oudtshoorn following a meeting with regional party leaders on instability in the town. The area has been bedevilled by acrimonious political battles in recent months, amid a Special Investigating Unit investigation into allegations of malpractice and corruption in the ANC-led municipality.
Although the DA has generally continued to dominate by-elections held in the province this year, the ANC has also made inroads in DA-controlled areas.
In February, the ANC won back a ward it lost to the DA in the Witzenberg municipality during the last local government elections.
However, Mr Meyer said a number of ANC members and councillors in the province were "unhappy" with Mr Fransman’s leadership.
This had resulted in mass resignations from the party.
"We have noted that the ANC in Oudtshoorn (last week) chased its leader Marius Fransman away," Mr Meyer said. "We are expecting some ANC councillors to resign due to their unhappiness with Fransman.
"The DA will fight the by-elections (where the resignations have occurred )."
The DA would later this month convene for its election indaba to thrash out a strategy for next year’s elections, Mr Meyer said.
It emerged last month that the DA in the province had produced a draft electioneering proposal that sought to equate the ANC with the National Party during apartheid. But DA insiders say the document is unlikely to be adopted.
"The DA election strategy and message will be announced at the election indaba," Mr Meyer said.
"Extensive consultations and visits are taking place across the province, and we (have) a presence in ANC wards and we are seeing a growth towards the DA in these areas," he said.
The DA’s attempt to show it had always been part of the anti-apartheid struggle was seen in a negative light by a large section of South African society.