Rustenburg – Arguably one of the country’s most hotly contested provinces, the North West has been claimed as the home of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the lead up to next month’s 8 May general election.
Both Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the ANC and Julius Malema of the EFF have crisscrossed the platinum province to drum up support for their parties ahead of the election day.
Ramaphosa held an election blitz in most of the major towns and Malema held closed meetings with party members in all four regions of the North West before the party manifesto launch.
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa at the launch of his party manifesto in Rustenburg on March 2, said the North West was the home of the ANC, while Julius Malema, told party supporters in Lethabong that the "EFF is North West and North West is the EFF".
"If you do not bring a new government on May 8 people of North West, you will have yourselves to be blamed because in North West the government of the day is rotten to the core," Malema told party members at the North West manifesto launch in Lethobong, Rustenburg on March 31.
However, Ramaphosa assured ANC members that the party would win North West. " We are not going to lose this province [North West], it is the home of the ANC, We are going to increase our majority. North West is the home of the ANC," he said.
The ANC goes into the May election limping. In North West it was rocked by factions that nearly cost it the Rustenburg local municipality in the 2016 municipal election.
Rustenburg is the only hung municipality in North West, which the ANC controls through a coalition with Botho Community Movement (BCM), African Independent Congress (AIC) and Freedom Front Plus.
Disgruntled ANC councillors voted with the opposition to unseat mayors in some municipalities, including in Matlosana where mayor Maetu Kgaile was voted out only to be reinstated after the ANC intervened.
Recently the mayor of Mamusa Aaron Motswana was voted out after six ANC councillor voted with the opposition to unseat him.
Another set back for the oldest liberation movement in Africa, was the mass rebellion against Supra Mahumapelo, the premier of the North West and provincial chair of the ANC.
He resigned in May 2018 as the premier of North West after people called for him to vacate office in mass protests in the North West. Job Mokgoro replaced him in June as premier.
The provincial executive committtee (PEC) was dissolved and Aaron Motswana supported by Mahumapelo went to court arguing that the ANC erred in disbanding the PEC.
The North West or Bokone Bophirima also struggled with its candidate lists, forcing the once formidable ANC to postpone its submission to just days before the January 8 statement.
Despite all the problems facing the ANC in North West, Ramaphosa assured members the party was attending to the problems and called for unity.
"The steps that we have taken and are continuing to take in this province, both at the level of the organisation and the government, are informed precisely by the seriousness with which we are self-correcting."
The ANC scored 73.84 percent of the votes in the 2009 general election, this was before the formation of the EFF. In the 2014 election the ANC was reduced to 67.39 percent while the newly EFF managed to obtained 13.21 percent of the votes in North West on their first attempt.
Opposition parties have seen the challenges the ANC faces as an opportunity to raise their own profiles and take voters from the ruling party. Democratic Alliance (DA) premier candidate Joe McGluwa said they wanted to reduce the ANC to below 50 percent of the votes.
He said the DA would do better in the May 8 general election with an increased margin. "It is possible for us to reach 24 percent of the votes," McGluwa said.
"Before it was 13 and 14 percent it was very low but, we are very positive this time around of what is happening in the province it is possible for us to reach 22 or 24 percent."
In the 2014 election the DA ranked third in North West with 12.73 percent of the votes compared to 8.70 percent it obtained in the 2009 election. But the DA faces its own threats from Patricia de Lille’s Good party.
The former mayor of Cape Town formed the Good party after she resigned from the DA in a lengthy public spat that captured media headlines, doing much damage to the image of the DA as a nonracial party.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane and party’s chief whip John Steenhuisen also visited North West, to charm voters. Maimane focused on the white votes, playing down the impact of Good on the DA.
He described the DA as a party for all races, but Steenhuisen made it clear when he blasted the Freedom Front Plus for its " slaan terug" (fight back) stance.
He said there was no need to fight back, but to stand together.
"Hoe kan jy terug slaan as daar nie mense in vergadering (is nie)? Moenie terug slaan maar staan saam," he said in Afrikaaans which loosely translates to "how can you fight back when there are no people in your meetings? Do not fight back but stand together".
A good chunk of DA voters left with De Lille eating away at the gains the party made when De Lille gave it voters on a platter with the incorporation of her party, the Independent Democrats, into the DA.
Although the ANC, EFF and DA are seen as the main contenders in the North West, smaller parties such as the African Transformation Movement (ATM), Woman Forward (WF) and African Content Movement (ACM), led by charsmatic former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, pose a threat to their traditional votes.
The ANC is in a pole position to retain control of the province but, it will be with a reduced margin. In this election the ANC’s challenge is not a splinter group, but rather a rebellion within its ranks.
African News Agency (ANA)