Finding a Jacob Zuma supporter is like searching for a needle in a haystack in the small village of Tshikanoshi‚ Limpopo.
But we went out to find Zuma supporters. Instead‚ what we found were staunch‚ emotional and ideological followers of the ANC with one common theme: united against Zuma. They want him gone.
A deeply rural area‚ Tshikanoshi is‚ in many ways‚ a typical ANC stronghold. One of our subjects‚ Ntladi Manyaka‚ told us no opposition parties have a presence here — it’s only ANC. Zuma is counting on these areas for support as he navigates dangerous territory as a deeply unpopular president.
But there are worrying signs for the governing party‚ which will need to hold onto areas like Tshikanoshi if it is to continue to lead the country.
Ephraim Mogale‚ the municipality Tshikanoshi is in‚ votes heavily for the ANC. In 2014‚ Nelson Mandela’s party gained almost 80% of the vote. But in the most recent municipal elections last year‚ the ANC gained barely 62%. Still a majority‚ but a major drop-off.
A Times analysis of voting patterns in Limpopo found that the ANC lost 6.5% of vote share on average in the municipalities in 2016. In one place‚ Maruleng in the northeast of the province‚ ANC support declined nearly 20% between 2014 and 2016.
So we asked Ntladi Manyaka‚ 35‚ a mechanical engineer who needs an apprenticeship to qualify‚ where can we find a pro-Zuma subject?
He deliberates‚ saying “that will be difficult” and then gives us a number for Aubrey Marota.
We call it but the phone is off. So we ask him (Manyaka) to accompany us to the home of this staunch ANC supporter.
Manyaka‚ as we navigate the dirt road‚ questioned the radical economic development the president has spoken about recently‚ calling it “rhetoric to woo voters”.
“What is it? How will it be rolled out? How will it pull people out of poverty you see here? Where is the blue print for this grand plan? It does not exist and people know it.”
When we found Marota‚ a 27-year-old ANC youth coordinator‚ he began lamenting the “division that Zuma has caused” in his branch‚ Alpheus Moseri.
He fears the party faces the real risk of losing power by the next elections if it keeps Zuma at the helm. Indeed‚ a study conducted by the research agency Kantar TNS found Zuma’s approval rating to be just 20% last month‚ its lowest point ever.
Radical Economic Transformation? He looks puzzled and asks “ohhh that slogan. It is just a slogan. Nobody takes it serious”.
He would have joined the anti-Zuma marches in Pretoria but had no means to get there.
He failed his matric (Grade 12) and dropped out‚ He survives by selling cosmetic products. This is his hustle. His whole family depends on him for survival.
“People still vote for the ANC because they love it. It is a party that liberated the country but now it has gone to the dogs. Instead of voting for other parties‚ people would rather stay away from the polls.”
Speaking articulately in his mother tongue SePedi‚ the youngster says the ANC‚ his political home‚ has been destroyed. The unity that held people together in the fight against the apartheid regime is gone‚ “taken by one man. Zuma”.
What pains him most is the divisive impact of Zuma’s leadership‚ which Marota says is rooted in ‘’brown envelopes keeping Zuma and his cronies in power…that is why people are losing hope (in the ANC)”.
Like many others we spoke to‚ he would prefer Cyril Ramaphosa as the next president because Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma “is another Zuma who will continue with what her ex-husband started‚ protecting the rogues and destroying our country. He (Zuma) is using Dlamini-Zuma to woo female voters to the ANC‚ to say they are getting what they wanted — a female president — but in actual fact Zuma‚ by pushing his ex-wife‚ is shielding himself from the charges he is facing and to ensure his cronies continue to steal.”
A deeply rural village‚ Tshikanoshi‚ was in Mpumalanga but residents said they woke up one day‚ about five years ago‚ and found themselves in Limpopo. They lament that they were not consulted when this decision was taken but they are still religious supporters of the ANC. The only development the village has seen since the dawn of democracy is piped water‚ electricity and pit toilets—but not every house has a toilet. Villagers say for one to get a toilet depends on who you know in the municipality. As one puts it: “It rains for others.”
The village is somehow popular during the festive season — the deep rural settlement hosts the venerable Diturupa (troops) carnival annually on January‚ drawing festive revellers from as far as Soweto.
But life is not a carnival for resident Mpane Manyaka‚ 57.
All he has in his dilapidated house to survive is wheat grain‚ which he boils to eat. He found a bag full of the grain thrown away in a bush and picked it up. He does not have a toilet and uses his neighbour’s toilet whenever he wants to relieve himself.
Yet‚ his love for the ANC is as insatiable as his hunger. The ANC is the only party that can take the country forward but the current leadership is not in that direction‚ he argues inside his workshop.
“This is the party founded by the people‚ for the people but the few have sought to make this party to serve their interests…what they forget is that the ANC is us and we are the ANC. Zuma is not for us. He must go‚” Manyaka said.
69-year-old Magotleng Kgophane‚ a self-taught welder and handyman of the village‚ said he will vote for the ANC if Ramaphosa becomes president.
A member of the local policing forum‚ Kgophane worked as a cleaner‚ then a messenger from 1975 until he was declared unfit to work with epilepsy in 1981. He lives in a well-kept house‚ with chickens and two dogs running around‚ as well as two goats and a cow.
Mandela’s administration brought him electricity and running water. Under Thabo Mbeki‚ the paved road outside his house got built. But then‚ he told us‚ since Zuma was elected‚ no new development has happened in his part of town.
By Sipho Mabena, with additional reporting by David Gernon