Opposition parties slug it out

In the last weekend before elections, the two largest opposition parties, the DA and EFF, reminded voters of their respective manifesto promises. United on ANC corruption, they are poles apart on almost everything else.

The DA and EFF wrestled for votes during the final weekend of election campaigning as both parties held their final push campaigns. They share a biting critique of ANC corruption but on other matters, including the question of borders and migration, they hold very different views.

The DA event took place at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Saturday 4 May. The EFF held its rally at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Sunday 5 May.

Red EFF flags hung from the streetlamps leading to Orlando Stadium like a guard of honour. In Dobsonville, DA leader Mmusi Maimane made his way down a blue carpet and was showered with blue ticker tape.

Maimane delivered a scathing attack on corruption in the ANC. Among the supporters at the rally were the Modisenyanes, who said they changed their vote in 1999 when they realised that the incumbent government was not bringing about change, unity or jobs.

4 May 2019: DA supporters came out in their numbers to the party’s final election campaign rally at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto. (Photograph by Madelene Cronjé)

Crime and power

Long-time DA supporter Kagisho Modisenyane, 49, a teacher from North West, said with a laugh, “We filled up the car … just to fill up the stadium. People should not be afraid of the unknown.”

Modisenyane’s husband, Disco, 56, said that what appeals to him most in the DA’s election manifesto is the securing of borders to “end cheap labour”, a sentiment shared by many at the rally. Despite severe criticism from progressive forces, City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has pushed this line, typical of the populist Right, particularly hard during the campaign.

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Malema has been positive in the past about Mashaba, who in turn has spoken highly of the EFF’s “strategic thinking”.

Mashaba seemed unfazed by the intense competition between the two largest opposition parties and dismissed fears of losing DA votes to the EFF. “Why should I worry about the EFF? EFF is not running government. I am concerned about my country being run by a criminal syndicate known by the world,” he said, referring to the ruling party.

Borders and unity

The atmosphere at the DA rally was somewhat subdued compared with that of the EFF rally, which was bolstered by a boisterous crowd convinced that Malema is the incoming president.

Malema told the packed crowd, bearing banners boasting of the party’s success, that older people were attending the rally because they know that the future is the EFF.

The party took a clear position in support of a borderless Africa.

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Tebogo Moabi, 25, who caught the bus to the stadium with his friends from Sharpeville, said he switched from the Pan Africanist Congress because he wants “land, a borderless Africa, unity from Cape to Cairo” and feels confident that the EFF will expedite open borders.

DA supporter, Mabopane-born Phylicia Rakobela, 23, is an unemployed first-time voter. She is in favour of securing the country’s borders because she feels many South Africans do not have jobs. She said that in her area, housing is an issue.

“There are too many of us [South Africans], people must come with papers so they can be legal,” she said.

Rakobela added that the EFF does not speak to her as it does not speak of unity.

5 May 2019: EFF leader Julius Malema made his way down a corridor of red flags to deliver his address to party supporters at Orlando Stadium. (Photograph by James Oatway)

Hopes for the future

Obakeng Kamela, a 19-year-old student, said he does not entertain divisive politics. As a queer man from Dobsonville Ext 3, he feels that the DA represents him best through its rainbow network. Kamela felt that the ANC was focused on the past instead of the future.

The ANC has long prided itself on securing the votes of the elderly, relying heavily on its history. But many frail, elderly people made their way into Orlando Stadium for the EFF rally, including Winifred Mnisi, 80, who referred to Malema affectionately as her “boy”.

Mnisi came from Alexandra by bus, a service the party provided. She is voting for the EFF because unemployment under the ANC, for whom she voted previously, is too high, she said.

She said Malema supports old people and even finds them transport to take them to 24-hour clinics in Alexandra. She will be voting for the EFF for the second time.

“They are going to find our children places to stay, houses and jobs, because there aren’t any. Our children are all over the streets. They are doing drugs because they don’t work and, when they search, they don’t get them,” she said.

Northern Cape and Gauteng

Maimane told his supporters that the Northern Cape and Gauteng were key to winning the national elections.

In April, the DA’s 2019 election campaign manager, Jonathan Moakes, said the party had gained strong ground in the Northern Cape, a province EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it had struggled with but in which the party was hoping to increase its numbers.

Maimane echoed Moakes’ sentiment, saying the Northern Cape is the reason there will be change. “The whip is coming, South Africa is ready for change,” he said, telling supporters that future generations would thank them for lending him their votes.

He described the ANC as a party that is no longer moored in the sands of freedom, referring to it, again, as a monument. He painted a bleak future should the ANC remain in power, because of the corruption and unemployment levels that have come to dog South Africa.

4 May 2019: DA leader Mmusi Maimane made his way down a blue carpet and was showered with blue ticker tape ahead of addressing supporters at the party’s final campaign rally. (Photograph by Madelene Cronjé)

Jobs and the disabled

Themba Bennet, 26, lives across the road from Dobsonville Stadium. He joined the DA in 2009.

“Their policies are so good. They are focusing on building and creating jobs, growing the economy,” he said, adding that he does not connect with the EFF.

Napoleon Madihlaba from Limpopo, 26, joined the DA in 2013. “I love the party because it fulfils its promises and fights corruption,” he said. Madihlaba graduated in 2016 and has been looking for employment since then.

Molefi Smith, 39, from Carletonville, explained that everything Malema said resonated with him because he is disabled, relies on crutches and cannot find a job. He was shot in 2008 and suffered permanent injuries, but has never received a wheelchair.

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“Julius is from the ANC, he knows their weaknesses … Look, he is here now, he has his own party, he is going to be our next president,” he said with conviction.

Malema spoke about the importance of putting the vulnerable first, saying they need jobs and should live in conducive houses and environments. “Look how they put us in the front so nicely … That was the best thing they could do,” beamed 48-year-old Thando Mahlobo from Mofolo, who was diagnosed with spinal cancer in 2011.

The DA promised title deeds for land and a job in each household.

Malema declared 8 May as Economic Freedom Day, saying the party would restore the dignity of citizens living in “the ghetto” so that there is no difference between places such as Randburg and Orlando East.

The EFF leader promised free education, decent salaries, open borders and the nationalisation of banks and mines. The party has come under sustained criticism for the public sexism of many of its supporters, but at the rally Malema affirmed the importance of women in leadership.

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