Gwede Mantashe Secretary general of the African National Congress refuses to see the challenges the 102 year-old political movement face from new opposition players like Economic Freedom Fighters or Agang SA in this year's election, arguing that he does not "want two-thirds [but] three-thirds [of the votes] for the ANC."
The Africa Report: Why should South Africans register to vote?
Gwede Mantashe: Once you have acquired the right to vote, you can vote. You have the power to use it. You also have the power not to use it. But it is worse when you don't have the power and when you have not acquired the power, cause you cannot use it. You can only howl. We are encouraging people to register to vote so that they can have the power to decide who to vote for and whether to vote or not. The power is there.
We must tell them that in 1992 only 39% of South Africans had access to electricity
What is the African National Congress's (ANC) main election message?
We have a good story to tell; it must be written by us. We cannot allow the hunters to write the story of lions. The lions must tell their story. We must tell people when they say education is a disaster what we have done in education. We must say that in 1994 there were no early child development facilities (ECD). In 2013, we have 800,000 children in ECD facilities paid for by the state. The number of those completing school has gone up. That is why universities cannot cope. The number of students has grown threefold, that is the story we must tell. We must tell them that in 1992 only 39% of South Africans had access to electricity. In 2013, it is 84% who have access to electricity. South Africa is better today than it was under apartheid. The economy has grown threefold
in terms of the gross domestic product.
What do you say about the fact that the economy is shedding jobs?
It is because of the psychology of our society if we continue repeating negativity. One man was complaining about electricity. That is the line of thinking. Even if there are houses being built, if they [the houses] have not arrived here we choose to say there are no houses being built.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa have voiced their anger at the controversial youth employment scheme wage. Why did the ANC insist on passing this legislation?
It is not a youth wage subsidy, it is a youth employment support scheme and it must be multi-pronged. My argument is very simple: allow young people to access the work there and after that they will go and place themselves [in the labour market]. The first liberating act is to allow them into the workplace, and the ANC must not be ashamed of that.
The ANC has come under fire for the proportional representation electoral system which is sometimes criticised for giving power to party managers, not voters. Are we going to see any changes to the system?
If we do that, it would be both to the disadvantage of the ANC and it would kill the smaller parties. I don't think it is a good idea.
Can the ANC win two-thirds of the votes in next year's elections?
I don't talk numbers. We want an overwhelming majority for the ANC. I don't want two-thirds, I want three-thirds for the ANC.
What challenges do you face from the new opposition players like Economic Freedom Fighters or Agang SA?
I am talking for a 102-year-old organisation. I don't talk for anybody else. I don't know them. I am not a member of them. ●