ANC demands answers from provincial leaders over poor manifesto attendance

The ANC wants answers from the Eastern Cape leadership over the province’s failure to fill up the 46000-seater Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium for the launch of its local government election manifesto on Saturday.

ANC head of policy Jeff Radebe confirmed yesterday that the party was “disappointed” by the attendance as the provincial leaders had given an assurance that 100000 would attend the gathering.

“We are meeting tomorrow ... we need to get the facts and people should account,” Radebe said.

President Jacob Zuma was meant to have started speaking by 11am but the proceedings were delayed as the stadium was still relatively empty.

Since Zuma became ANC president in 2007, party events have become so popular that there is an adjacent overflow venue.

Manifesto launches are usually a show of force for the ruling party, as was seen at the 2009 launch where East London’s Absa Stadium and the adjacent venue overflowed with party supporters.

However, this time around there were thousands of empty seats in the main stadium and the overflow area was empty.

Radebe said: “An investigation is under way to understand what happened. This is disappointing and unacceptable.

“We were assured 100000 people were going to attend but that was not the case.”

ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane admitted yesterday that they had failed to live up to expectations on the day, citing a number of reasons.

Even though regions such as Dr WB Rubusana in Buffalo City managed to bus the 3250 supporters they were meant to transport, Mabuyane said: “We experienced serious setbacks in Nelson Mandela Bay, Sarah Baartman and Port St Johns, where bus drivers demanded a 50% upfront payment due to their previous experiences with non-payment.

“It was a logistical nightmare to make such payments a day before the rally. As a result, our members and supporters were stranded for hours across regions.”

What made matters worse was that it seemed some of the supporters – who arrived by bus – did not care much about what Zuma had to say and instead headed for the beach.

Mabuyane admitted that this was also the case.

“We have records of ANC members using their visit to PE to go and swim and enjoy themselves at the beach. These are the problems which made the situation more complex.”

The poor show happened even though the Eastern Cape received thousands of supporters from other provinces.

According to ANC North West chairman Supra Mahumapelo, his province bused in 3000 supporters.

Free State transported 6000 supporters, KwaZulu-Natal sent 5000 while Gauteng had 4000 attending the manifesto launch.

The launch took place against the backdrop of consultations by the party’s national working committee (NWC) with ANC branches to “explain” the party’s decision to accept Zuma’s apology for flouting the constitution in his handling of the Nkandla matter.

At least four branches in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro have criticised the NWC decision to forgive Zuma, with one in Buffalo City calling for his resignation.

An Eastern Cape PEC member said: “We found ourselves having to bus people who were less interested in listening to what the president had to say, but in the same breath did not want to disappoint us , and went to PE either way. These are the supporters who were roaming outside the stadium, while others went to the beach. It was more of a silent protest against the president.”

For the event, the ANC brought out the heavyweights in the entertainment industry, including Mafikizolo, Zahara and Nathi.

Nelson Mandela Bay is an area in which ANC support has been dwindling since the 2011 elections. The party lost two by-elections to opposition parties recently.

Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni said the poor turnout, compared with other ANC rallies, puts “the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay in a very awkward position.

“It might just depend on whether people believe that Danny Jordaan is going to continue to salvage the ANC with concrete service delivery. That could be the saving grace – not national leaders descending on the Bay this past weekend.”