The promises have been made, now ANC must find the voters
Its research shows it must get its supporters to register, then to the polls - but it faces hard questions about jobs
As the ANC launched its election manifesto that puts jobs at the centre of its promises, it now faces the task of prompting its supporters to register to vote and get them out to vote on election day.
This twin challenge, ANC’s internal research has showed, can affect the ANC’s efforts to secure at least 61% of the vote nationally.
The Independent Electoral Commission will hold its last voter registration weekend at the end of January and the ANC plans to capitalise on the momentum from its manifesto launch, held in Durban at the weekend.
But as it tries to sway young voters to register to vote for the ANC, it faces hard questions about youth unemployment.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa criss-crossed KwaZulu-Natal in the run-up to the ANC’s manifesto launch on Saturday at Moses Mabhida Stadium, people cared only about jobs.
As he engaged with a variety of communities, people did not ask for social services as much as they pleaded with the president to create jobs.
With an unemployment rate of 27% in SA, the true reality of this was felt in townships across the province.
ANC leaders like treasurer-general Paul Mashatile were asked by South Africans what, specifically, the governing party will do to create jobs. In Newcastle, for example, people suggested to the ANC leadership that reviving industrialisation in that part of the world will help boost the economy.
In other areas, some ANC volunteers were left fumbling, unable to explain the high rate of joblessness and what real efforts the ANC will make to create jobs. Ramaphosa told residents of KwaDambuza in Petermaritzburg on Thursday that the only way jobs will be created is if the country attracts investment.
He also told business leaders this week that business needs to work with the government to create jobs.
As the ANC delivered its manifesto on Saturday, it set itself a target of creating 275,000 jobs every year for the next five years – an ambitious goal given the sluggish growth of the economy.
“At the centre of our manifesto is a plan to create many more jobs and ensure that all workers can earn a decent living,” Ramaphosa told the crowd on Saturday.
He labelled the state of unemployment in SA “a tragedy of vast proportions”.
The party has realised that its electoral support is directly linked to growth in the economy.
Which is why the promises to secure R1.2 trillion in new investments over the next few years.
“The most pressing task for our country at this moment in our history is therefore to set the economy on a higher path of shared growth and to transform the structure of our economy to provide opportunities for millions of South Africans. This requires a massive injection of new investment,” Ramaphosa told the thousands gathered.
Those tangible figures give the electorate a benchmark to judge the ANC against, in real time.
The theme of economic growth is the central message of the ANC’s election campaign, with its main slogan: “Let’s grow South Africa together.”
Much of the ANC’s manifesto repeats old promises, especially on issues such as fighting corruption.
Ramaphosa has, however, admitted that state institutions have been weakened, something his predecessor Jacob Zuma never did.
While many people engaged in the week leading up to the rally raised the issue of land, they were satisfied that there was a process in place.
As per the ANC manifesto, the party is leaving it up to parliament to resolve the process of land expropriation without compensation.
The manifesto launch was hailed as a success and sets the tone for the months leading up to the elections.
The activities in Durban showed a party setting aside its internal divisions, albeit temporarily, as it fights against the prospect of a reduced majority.
The Sunday Times reported that Zuma’s supporters in KwaZulu-Natal were engaged in a truce so that Ramaphosa would not be embarrassed.
Mashatile said on the campaign trail that “comrades realised that if we don’t put our differences aside, we all stand to lose”.
But this truce between factions is unlikely to last forever.
A provincial leader said in jest after the rally on Saturday that “we will work together for the elections and once we win we will start our fights again”.
The party will hold an NEC meeting next week to adopt the final list for the national assembly. It will also hold its government lekgotla which will set the tone for Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address and the budget speech.
Debates over personalities who need to be excluded from the list is likely to take place as Ramaphosa’s supporters say they will not compromise on their stance that dodgy ANC leaders should not be on the list. They are targeting 10 people who look likely to be deployed to parliament.
Reacting to the ANC manifesto, the DA said it was just another set of empty promises, while the EFF accused the ruling party of not having any new ideas.