Asemahle Gwala | The electoral battle for the Eastern Cape rages on

Eastern Cape ANC chairman Oscar Mabuyane delivers a Freedom Charter lecture at the BB Zondani Hall, in Makhanda. 7 July 2018 Fredlin Adriaan
Eastern Cape ANC chairman Oscar Mabuyane delivers a Freedom Charter lecture at the BB Zondani Hall, in Makhanda. 7 July 2018 Fredlin Adriaan
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

The hills and the valleys of the Eastern Cape have been subjected to protracted conflict over the past two centuries from the wars of dispossession that went on for almost a century to the militant coups d’état that were an engraved feature in the political DNA of the bantustan governments.

Twenty-five years into the new democratic dispensation the archetype of conflict that results into one ascending to power has radically shifted, to a battle of ideas between ideologically heterogeneous political organisations that use the power of persuasion to woo their constituencies without the threat of any violence (at least that is how it is supposed to be theoretically).

From Raymond Mhlaba to the incumbent, Phumulo Masualle, the highest office in the semi-federal Eastern Cape, of the premier, has been occupied by leaders from the ruling party, the ANC.

According to the latest party list that recently surfaced, the next man in line, if the ANC yet again captures the imagination of its loyal voters, is Deberhaborn Oscar Mabuyane with 818 nominations.

He is the party’s provincial chairperson who rose to the higher echelons of the party at its 2017 elective conference held at the International Convention Centre, East London.

As much as this is not a thesis that seeks to bash the ANC and its failure to get us out of abject poverty by combating the high levels of unemployment that a quick glance at national statistics would attest to, reflections need to be made as we approach the forthcoming national and provincial elections likely to be held in May.

It is not only the ANC that needs reflection, but also the motives of other political organisations that seek to take up the mantle of governance.

As a scholar of the dynamic discipline of politics, it is safe to say that there is no holistically correct analysis that would encapsulate the preferences of the people, but the people themselves on the day of elections.

But what I know is that the party that seeks to eradicate the deep-rooted scourge of corruption that has characterised service delivery in all spheres of government will find resonance with the people the most.

It would be unfair to put the responsibility of taking more than six million people out of a deep hole on one man, but if there were shoulders broad enough they would be those of the ANC provincial chairperson.

His recent stance of cracking the whip at 16 dysfunctional municipalities that distorted budgets during the 2018-19 financial year and his calls for public officials to stop doing business with the state is a step in the right direction in cutting the throat of kleptocracy.

Any period of renaissance in history has been led by great men and women who marshalled troops to defeat the injustices that from time to time present their ugly heads in the world that we live in.

These range from military strategists such as the gallant Chief Maqoma to the fearless heroines like the late Mama uWinnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The people of the Eastern Cape deserve to be led by that calibre of leadership not only because of courtesy but because of the complexness of the problems that lead to our people going to sleep to the lullabies of groaning stomachs.

The first time that I came across the name Oscar Mabuyane I was an eager-eyed first year at the Nelson Mandela University, campaigning for SRC elections.

Instead of the norm, where volunteers spend hours on end waiting to be addressed by their “esteemed” leaders, this time around it was us who found the then ANC provincial secretary waiting for us.

Before he could even utter a singular word the gesture alone was able to revitalise our fatigued bodies for the tough days ahead.

As much as the citizenry of the Eastern Cape needs a sense of urgency as it has already suffered enough, the humbleness of leaders is able to break down the dichotomy that puts them beyond reproach to the electorate that painstakingly campaigned to put them in power. As we move closer to the elections may other volunteers of the congress movement experience the same respect that we were awarded.

I hope the 2019 national general elections beyond political representation will be a catalyst to the eradication of socioeconomic ills that are plaguing the province.

May economic solutions be provided that will usher us into a corruption-free, egalitarian world that is characterised by prosperity rather than the scourge of poverty.

The battle for the Eastern Cape rages on.

● Asemahle Gwala is Sasco Claude Qavane Deputy chairperson and a political science student at Nelson Mandela University.