POLITICAL parties did not pull any punches last night when Eastern Cape party representatives went head to head in a bid to convince the public to vote for them in next month’s general election.
Tempers flared at Port Elizabeth’s Feather Market Centre as representatives debated issues pertaining to education, job creation, economic development and health with their supporters and members of the public.
The eight parties at the The Herald/NMMU Community Dialogue were represented by Phillip Machanick (Agang SA), Phakamisile Mooi (Azapo), Phumulo Masualle (ANC), Athol Trollip (DA), Lievie Sharpley (COPE), Vuyani Mbinda (PAC), Mbuyiselo Madaka (EFF) and Mongameli Bobani (UDM).
While a large number of ANC, DA, COPE, Agang SA and UDM supporters turned up, fewer were there for the EFF, PAC and Azapo.
The theme for the dialogue was “National Elections: Your chance to engage with political parties”.
Masualle had the toughest time, having to defend jabs from other parties about the R246-million upgrade of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead and criticism about the ANC’s performance as the governing party over the last 20 years.
He maintained the ANC had achieved a lot and “those who complain are those who have done nothing. Those who have done nothing have nothing to account for”.
On education, Masualle defended the government’s numerous curriculum changes over the years, saying it had to be aligned with the government’s development goals.
Machanick spoke about raising the minimum pass rate for matriculants from 30% because there was a need to set “high expectations for scholars for when they go to university”.
Mbinda said the issue of land distribution was something the PAC had been championing since 1959.
Mooi said education should be free and compulsory for all young people – from Grade R until they obtained their first university degree.
Bobani continued to harp on Zuma’s Nkandla “palace”.
“The ANC has brought economic transformation and improved economic development, but it’s only one place that’s moving economically – KwaZulu-Natal.”
Sharpley focused mainly on the development of rural areas in the Eastern Cape, saying these areas were neglected, with dilapidated schools and roads, and non-functioning clinics.
Trollip said the average number of hours teachers spent teaching in the classroom was three hours, emphasising that time management was important.
He criticised the ANC for having “five different curriculums over the past 20 years”.
Taking a swipe at the ANC for not revealing its premier candidate for the Eastern Cape until after the elections, Trollip said: “Nationally, you have a choice. You can vote for Helen Zille or Jacob Zuma.
“In the Eastern Cape, you can vote for Trollip or the cat-in-the-bag that the ANC will reveal after the elections.”
This sparked loud applause and laughter, even from Masualle. Trollip also said: “First I am a farmer and I am white. There is nothing I can do about that.
“I have no corruption charges against me and Zuma has hundreds of corruption charges against him. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
Madaka reiterated the EFF’s stance on land expropriation without compensation as well as the nationalisation of mines.
“Some of the leaders in the ANC have shares in those mines and are billionaires, while there are people who live and die in shacks. That’s their good story.
“Our people don’t benefit from the mines. The government has prostituted our economy to capitalism,” Madaka said.
He said later that black people were forced to eat chicken feet everyday whereas white people were farming elephants and lions.
Masualle fielded a host of questions from various party supporters, as well as members of the public.
A UDM supporter, who did not reveal his name, asked Masualle: “Let’s just be genuine and honest in answering this comrade Masualle. Do you think South Africa is on the right track?”
Masualle replied: “We have put before the electorate a very bold plan. We are confident of the success made in 20 years. We’re confident we’re moving in the right direction.”