The ANC’s final push for votes ahead of the municipal by-elections ended in dramatic fashion as news of an arrest warrant for secretary-general Ace Magashule clouded the party’s campaign.
Flanked by his supporters, Magashule was at first in a jovial mood as he approached a bus terminal parking lot in Soweto, where he was expected to address a group of fewer than 100 supporters.
But things changed fast when Magashule heard a warrant for his arrest had been signed in connection with his alleged role in the controversial R225m asbestos eradication tender in the Free State dating back to 2014, when he was premier.l
Magashule initially said he was not worried about reports of the arrest warrant against him and told ANC supporters to focus on the by-election.
“They [the elderly] confirmed they voted for the ANC. They will still vote for the ANC. Even if the ANC is divided, they will continue voting for the ANC.
“We must try by all means to unite the ANC. It will be united, comrades … it’s a matter of time. You must never be disillusioned, you must never be defocused (sic), you must never be demoralised. The enemy is intending to demoralise us, and we must refuse to be demoralised. We must refuse for lies to fly,” said Magashule.
And it appeared as though members of the local community heeded his call.
Thabiso Letsoalo, from ward 21 in Soweto, said it was encouraging to see “members of the upper structure visit us”.
Letsoalo said: “This is a chance for them to directly listen to the people. In our community we have problems such as electricity, unemployment of young people and foreigners having businesses in our area like nobody’s business and they are unmonitored.”
Speaking of the looming by-elections, he said he was confident the ANC would do well.
Fruit and vegetable hawker Nkosinathi Khumalo, 23, said: “I am going to vote for the ANC because everything we’re doing here is because of them. I am hopeful that with time they will deal with issues in the area affecting the youth, especially drugs.”
Zweli Matau, 38, who has lived in Umdeni South all his life, said while he was pleased with the visibility of senior ANC leaders, he wanted the party to self-introspect.
“You see, they have a tendency of disappearing after the elections. We feel small when they come here only during elections. They come here only when they want votes from us, but I will continue to vote for them,” he said.
Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo promised residents their issues would be attended to.
“We believe these elections are important, not only to restore the faith of the people in the ANC, but they are also a dress rehearsal of what is going to be happening next year,” he said, in reference to the 2021 local government election.
“People think the ANC is weak, people think the ANC is on its knees. You will see tomorrow that is very far from the truth. Yes, we have problems, there are Eskom problems, people are crying about food, lockdown has dealt with the morale of our people, but they will come out in their numbers.”
He urged voters to vote for the ruling party on Wednesday.
“Not only that we need the numbers for council, it is also the right thing to do. We are the only party with a transformational agenda that has transformed Soweto into what it is today and will change the lives of our people,” he said.
The IEC said this week it was ready for events on Wednesday, where 95 by-elections are taking place across SA.