Nkandla locals go ‘heh heh heh’ at the prospect of the DA winning at the polls
The Democratic Alliance controls the legislative capital in Cape Town and has its sights firmly set on the seat of government in Tshwane. But by far its most audacious battle in the August 3 local government elections will be its attempt to take control of President Jacob Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla.
“We can win in Nkandla. I’ve got real support here and the people know me. We will show them our support with rallies and then winning votes at the election.”
DA Nkandla mayoral candidate Sophie Buthelezi utters these words without a hint of doubt in her voice. She defected to the DA after her former political home, the National Freedom Party, started imploding and was in effect barred from participating in this year’s local government elections.
The DA feels so emboldened by its coup in luring Buthelezi into its ranks that it now believes she can grow its support from hardly visible to numbers significant enough to take control of the council.
To underscore this confidence, the party’s uThungulu district leader, Ann McDonnell, advised the Mail & Guardian to visit the Nkandla district to “see for yourself how much the people love the DA”.
“The DA believes the rural vote is vital and we’re going to win President Jacob Zuma’s hometown. We received an exceptional welcome in the town and our branches are growing,” McDonnell said.
Political analyst Protas Madlala predicts that the NFP’s demise will lead to increased Inkatha Freedom Party support. And the DA is also keen to get in on the action.
But although the official opposition is taking the challenge to capture Nkandla seriously, residents appear to consider it all a practical joke.
“Heh heh heh! No, no, my brother, you must be joking. The DA? You don’t mean IFP? Or maybe ANC? No, there’s no way they can win here,” said Bheki Mbonane, a security guard at the Nkandla shopping mall. He burst out laughing in response to questions about the DA’s presence in the town. He was not the only one.
Time after time, everyone interviewed – a security guard, a woman working at clothing retailer Ackermans, a petrol attendant, a taxi driver, and a group of people dressed in suits and ties at the KFC as well as the woman working at the till – laughed off suggestions that the DA could unseat the IFP council.
In the 2011 municipal elections, the DA’s support in the Nkandla municipality was so low that it was hardly mentioned on election data aggregating websites. In 2014, the party scored about 1% of the vote, with the IFP, NFP and ANC almost evenly sharing the remaining 99%.
Incumbent IFP mayor Arthur Ntuli took complete control of the council after an ANC-NFP coalition collapsed in 2012 and the IFP won a by-election in December that year. Since then he’s launched a new football league, hosting Nkandla’s own Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates legends teams, and has awarded hundreds of bursaries to top-performing students in the area.
“You see, many people love those things, like the soccer teams and college. Especially parents who support [the] IFP [and whose] kids got bursaries to study at university, and those with houses,” said Amahle Cebekhulu, a resident of one of the villages near the town.
Many residents told the M&G the real election contest is undoubtedly between the ANC and IFP, now that it has become clear that the NFP will not be contesting the polls.
This is also demonstrated by the amount of election propaganda displayed on political party posters and official government billboards, advertising the football teams, the new technical college, school bursaries and other development projects in the area.
Life-sized posters displaying IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Photoshopped face below a “Trust us” slogan instantly draw attention away from ANC posters featuring a smiling Jacob Zuma, in villages and around the town.
When the M&G visited the area, two DA volunteers confirmed they had only started putting up their black-and-white posters last week after some supporters complained about the party’s lack of visibility.
But finding a DA supporter in Nkandla was not as difficult as the IFP and ANC would lead one to believe.
Resident Bafana Mmgomezulu, while passing through the town, unashamedly confirmed his DA membership and said he believed the party’s real strength would be demonstrated after the polls.
“It’s all about a secret ballot. They can say IFP or ANC now, but no one can see you when you vote. So we will see,” he said. – mg.co.za