The secretary of the African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape, Faiez Jacobs, has given a brutally honest assessment of the party's provincial elections setback and urged members to end infighting.
Jacobs said factionalism contributed to the party's poor performance in the Western Cape in the May 8 elections and must be put aside if it wanted to do better in the 2021 local government elections.
"In the Western Cape, the ANC is eating humble pie following its worst-ever provincial election performance," Jacobs said in comments made on his Facebook page and disseminated to the media by the party on Thursday.
"From the rubble of this campaign the Western Cape ANC must pick itself up, dust itself off and demonstrate to voters (and itself) – before municipal elections in 2021 – that it is trustworthy and capable of responding sensibly and reasonably to the myriad issues that have stood between it and power in the Western Cape for the past decade."
He said the ANC's incoming members of the provincial legislature needed to take up their seats with humility and discipline. The party needed to use the next two years to convince voters that it could bring better governance to Western Cape communities than the Democratic Alliance.
The ANC polled 28.5 percent in the province, compared to 32.9 percent in 2014. The Democratic Alliance retained its clear majority in the province with 55.5 percent of the vote.
Jacobs said humility was required as the party processed the loss of support.
"But instead of getting on with chewing the terrible tasting stuff, and demonstrating the appropriate level of humility, some members and supporters of the party have daggers drawn to cast blame on anyone besides themselves for our chastening election defeat."
He added that the first imperative for the party, if it were to regain the trust of the people of the Western Cape, was "to accept the electoral defeat in good grace and take responsibility".
"Democracy is working well in South Africa, but we in the Western Cape ANC are not doing well enough to convince voters of our integrity.
Jacobs said the second task at hand was to do away with factionalism within the ranks of the party.
"Requirement number two is to condemn factionalism in the Western Cape to the dustbin of history. In the recent past, the Western Cape ANC lost power in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Province due to factions and dirty tricks. Those factions evolved into other factions.
"While the candidates who competed for power at the Nasrec Conference have since demonstrated the maturity to work together for the organisation, post-Nasrec efforts to unite competing Western Cape groups were set back during the election period."
He said post-election mudslinging within the ANC served only other political parties.
"This type of ill-discipline is not only dirty and defamatory but also strengthens nobody more than other political parties. It is precisely the type of arrogance that Western Cape voters have now consistently rejected."
Jacobs said it should be kept in mind by ANC members that the Western Cape was different to the rest of South Africa and the party therefore needed to articulate a "more regional voice" here.
"Western Cape voters have since 1994 consistently shown themselves to be relatively conservative in comparison to voters in other provinces. Messaging that may work well in Limpopo, for example, does not necessarily resonate in the Western Cape. We are failing to address our people in terms they can necessarily relate to."
He added that while the ANC wholeheartedly rejected strategies of identity politics employed by other parties, it must refrain from in turn readily labelling them racist.
"It really hasn’t proved helpful, for example, for the ANC to respond to a Democratic Alliance (DA) announcement that it is handing out free bibles with cries of, “racism”. Even if it’s true…"
The ANC has been trying unsuccessfully to reclaim the Western Cape since 2009, when the DA first won an outright majority here.