With KwaZulu-Natal emerging as the political battleground for South Africa’s watershed 2024 polls, political analysts on Sunday said leadership, a willingness to engage and providing space for each other was required to avert campaigning tensions spilling into violence.

The ANC on Saturday chose the highly contested province to show its support as it launched its manifesto – filling the 64 000-seat Moses Mabhida Stadium and an overflow area.

University of Pretoria politics lecturer Roland Henwood said the well-attended event was “important as the ANC and its supporters are under great pressure and lately struggled to show the enthusiasm of other parties”.

He said: “This will surely be important, also symbolic, in a difficult election and a province like KwaZulu-Natal. However, this must be translated into the election campaign and, importantly, actual voter turnout.”

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Henwood described KZN as “a key province in this election and there is a real threat of violence, especially between the ANC and the MK [uMkhonto weSizwe] party” calling for tolerance and leadership from the parties.

“This may be exacerbated by the potential for violence that may also include the IFP [Inkatha Freedom Party] and EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters]. If history is any indication, what happens in KZN may spill over into Gauteng.

“To address any worsening of tensions we need proper application of IEC [Election Commission of SA] rules, regulations and security forces acting on good intelligence – timely, impartial and in a professional way,” he said.

During his address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the governing party would concentrate on six important issues which included job creation, investing in people, defending democracy and advancing freedom.

“The ANC is looking at the next 30 years, not looking in the past – we are not only looking at the next five years,” said a bullish Ramaphosa.

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Henwood said the manifesto focused on key challenges or the key failures of the ANC in government. “Some of the assumptions or implied objectives, are not easy to achieve or be delivered.

“The objectives are not new and some actually signal the failures of the ANC in government over especially the last 10 to 15 years,” he said.

University of South Africa political science professor Dirk Kotzé said: “It is certainly the biggest show of force by the ANC with the one outstanding being the IFP – unlikely that it will be the same as the one we have seen over the weekend.

“While this is good for the ANC, we have to bear in mind that election manifestos are no barometers of support or an indication of what will happen in three months’ time.

“In the case of the ANC, it is about whether they can draw significant numbers in the polls.”

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Kotzé said it was impossible to reach any conclusion of what the numbers of people who packed Moses Mabhida showed. “There were some symbolic moments – like when we saw President Ramaphosa taking up the spear – very much a reflection of MK.

“In that sense, he took up the contest with Jacob Zuma’s MK party claiming ownership of MK as the ANC’s military wing. This was very significant, something the ANC has not done.”

Kotzé said the manifesto was predictable – “something we’ve heard in the State of the Nation Address and January 8 Statement” – [with] very well-known issues like unemployment, job creation, economic development, water, railways and infrastructure.

“Election manifestos, as we’ve seen with the Democratic Alliance, Rise Mzansi and other parties – come as nothing significant. Speeches are not standing out to require some analysis.”

The IFP, said Kotzé, will be “much of a factor” in the election.

Averting any violence would require parties to “keep control of supporters, with all depending on the kind of rhetoric from leaders”.


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