DA man: We’ll bring the ANC under 50%

Nqaba Bhanga, the DA’s pick for the Eastern Cape premiership, has set his sights firmly on unseating the ANC from its leadership of the province after next year’s general election.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane made the announcement of Bhanga as the party’s preferred candidate to lead their election campaign in the province ahead of the 2019 polls, saying he was equal to the task.

In an interview with City Press this week, Bhanga said his party wanted to ensure that votes for the ANC be reduced to 50% and below. He said this was possible because of what had happened in Nelson Mandela Bay, where a DA-led coalition government took over from the ANC after the 2016 polls.

Bhanga said their structures and systems were in place and the party was raring to hit the campaign trail.

“In order for us to form a government in the Eastern Cape, the ANC cannot get anything above 50%, and we think we can do it.

“I have been visiting different traditional leaders in their great places [amakomkhulu] since I took over as DA leader. We are also going to meet business people, religious leaders and all stakeholders. This should be a movement of people who are going to work with us to make sure that at the end of the day they are supporting this campaign.”

Bhanga said he was confident that the DA-led coalition government – which included the Congress of the People, the African Christian Democratic Party and the Patriotic Alliance – would return to power in Nelson Mandela Bay after September 13, when their legal challenge is heard at the Port Elizabeth High Court regarding the legitimacy of the watershed council meeting two weeks ago which removed DA Mayor Athol Trollip.

He said all that the new coalition government was interested in doing was looting the R2bn currently in the metro’s coffers. “When we got there, there was zero balance in the metro coffers. Now there is R2bn. That is what they are after, to steal that money that is there,” said Bhanga (41).

The Port-Elizabeth born father of three said they were open to coalitions in 2019. “The future of South Africa is coalition governments. We are learning ... the difficulties of managing those. But as we get to 2019, we will have had experience on what we need to do in a coalition government and what we don’t need to do.”

But questions have arisen about Bhanga. In May last year, he caused a stir when he went absent without leave during a DA congress in East London. He was also absent when his provincial leadership was announced. DA leaders were left scratching their heads, only for Bhanga to show up hours later with no clear explanation for his no-show.

This week, Bhanga said it was a regrettable mistake on his part. “Yes, people will continue to question me about that incident. All I know is that people make mistakes and people must own up to those mistakes. I think that is the best thing. I think that is one of the elements of progressive leadership.

“I cannot say I did not fault in that regard. I accepted what I did, and I apologised and moved on.”