After watching the South African political landscape from afar for the past eight years, former US ambassador and Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool is making a foray back into local politics. On Monday, the African National Congress (ANC) announced that the former US ambassador and Western Cape premier will head the ANC’s Western Cape 2019 election committee. ANC Head of Elections, Fikile Mbalula made the announcement at a press conference, outlining the ANC’s 2019 plan to “reclaim” the Western Cape from the Democratic Alliance (DA), which has been in power since 2009.
ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said Rasool is an experienced campaigner and the most equipped to set up the elections team. Jacobs says given the many challenges in the Western Cape, “unity and renewal” will be an overarching theme.
“Comrade Ebrahim Rasool has had a winning recipe of putting our people first. When the ANC is united and we have coloured and African solidarity, then the people will come together. We need to focus on the ANC becoming a place for all our people,” said Jacobs.
The ANC in the Western Cape said divisions and factionalism within the DA has affected service delivery in the province.
“Transformation of the economy and the work spaces are not a priority in the Western Cape. Coloured and Africans remain in the periphery of the economy. The infighting in the Cape Metro has taken resources away from the people,” said Jacobs.
Mbalula said they were particularly concerned about how the DA has managed the water crisis and the severe impact of the financial implications of the drought on the poorest of the poor.
“Comrade Rasool warned the DA government of the looming drought crisis. Instead of the DA attending to drought planning, we know that water has been abused and local infrastructure has not been maintained,” said Mbalula.
Former Western Cape premier, Ebrahim Rasool is heading back into local politics. After presiding as the South African ambassador to the United States, Rasool has been elected as the head of elections for the African National Congress in the Western Cape. He promised to restore confidence in the ruling party.
Posted by Voice of the Cape Radio – VOC on Monday, 23 April 2018
Speaking to journalists, Rasool said he was humbled by the vote of confidence from the ruling party’s national and provincial leadership.
“When the ANC calls, you can’t say no. I’m not doing this reluctantly. I believe that whenever the moment is there for the ANC to be ready for this province, it is now,” he affirmed.
Rasool referred to the so-called ‘Ramaphoria’ engulfing the country and the vision for renewal and optimism in South Africa.
“This is an ANC we are proud of and a party that can win – not power, but trust of the people.”
Rasool believes that the opposition has failed the Western Cape and the ANC’s renewal coincides with the DA’s “implosion”.
“As ordinary citizens of the Western Cape, why should we be under constant pressure that our water will be cut off or that we are evicted from our homes? Must we accept that the councillor in Newlands is closing the taps with water [Newslands Spring] that doesn’t even belong to them? The levels of indignity are making our people hungry for alternatives. But they don’t want the ANC of last year…they want the 2018 model of the ANC.”
The provincial ANC has now tasked Rasool with rolling out a comprehensive opposition strategy.
“We want to tell the DA that their honeymoon is over. You are going to find us in the council, legislature, community and in the streets. You will now know what an opposition is all about,” said Rasool.
“We need to set up the structures so we reach every nook and cranny. No community will be left untouched.”
While he believes the ANC needs to get a foothold back into the coloured community, he feels the question of the ‘coloured vote’ is out-dated.
“We need to have a national question, ‘what is the relationship of coloureds to their fellow citizens and how do they all prosper in the Western Cape and beyond’. We want to do the hard work and win trust from the people.”
But for Rasool, his mission to wrestle back the Western Cape from the DA is also a personal journey of “unfinished business”.
“Non-racialism in the Western Cape has gone to sleep and we have seen words like immigrants for Africans being used in our vocabulary. We need to put service delivery back on the agenda and complete the projects we left off.”
“My mother reminded me that the first election I coordinated was in 1994. The general trajectory was that we increased our vote by 4%. This time, we are going to bend history. We have to do what is unusual and jump far more.”
In conclusion, Rasool had a strong message for Capetonians who have a voter’s dilemma ahead of 2019.
“To all those people who are historically ANC, come back. We need your memory and we need your hard work. Those who stood on the sidelines, remove those doubts and join us. For those who have historically voted against, you can’t do worse than what the DA is doing now. We are going forward.”