The move to appoint former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool as head of the ANC's election campaign in the province can be seen as a bold move to recover voters lost to the DA 10 years ago — especially those from the coloured community, who form a majority in Western Cape.
But analysts believe Rasool's ANC campaign will not be enough to overthrow the DA in the province — the problem lies not with Rasool himself, but with the party he represents.
When Rasool was first elected Western Cape premier in 2004, the ANC had a firm grasp on the province. After those first democratic elections, the ANC enjoyed 45 percent of voter support, compared to the DA's 27.
READ: Who Is Ebrahim Rasool?
But in the 2009 election, which came shortly after Rasool was reshuffled to an ambassadorship in the U.S. after the "brown envelope scandal", the ANC was dethroned. Its support dropped almost 14 percentage points, while the DA grew to an overwhelming majority of 51 percent.
Critics attributed the ANC's losses to a general neglect of the coloured community, internal factional battles and a loss of confidence owing to service delivery issues.
ANC elections head Fikile Mbalula described Ebrahim Rasool as the party's "most successful premier" in the Western Cape (@gerbjan)— Team News24 (@TeamNews24) April 23, 2018
Politics expert Keith Gottschalk says the ANC has since found it challenging to hold its own as an opposition party in Western Cape.
"The ANC found it difficult to keep the DA on its toes as a governing party. Selecting Rasool to run their campaign is a bid to appeal to coloured voters, who make up just under half of all voters in the province. But his previous role as premier was marked by scandal and factionalism in the party. Yet he is still popular," Gottschalk said.
"The ANC previously showed itself to be sensitive to the trend where its campaign head should represent all races across the spectrum, but it failed through affirmative action to cater for the coloured majority in Western Cape."
The DA is going to have field day with this Rasool appointment, I mean he was the last mainstay ANC WC premier, before the ANC lost the province (Lynne Brown served just under a year after him). And the shambles the DA found when they took over, you could write a book on.— Gareth van Onselen (@GvanOnselen) April 23, 2018
Gottschalk said Rasool is a stronger candidate than suspended ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman.
Political scientist at Unisa Dirk Kotze said factionalism in the ANC's Western Cape regions has never been overcome.
"Between 2009 and 2017, the problem of factionalism, which has always existed in the ANC in the province, was not resolved. No party was or is still able to work out a formula on how to accommodate the diversity of races and their political interests in the province. There were no leaders in the ANC who stood as a unifying figure to bridge the gap between these communities," Kotze said.
"The ANC couldn't find the right formula to accommodate different regional interests in the province. The DA managed to combine the interests of white and coloured voters. That is how they won the Western Cape. There isn't a real strong and visible leadership in the ANC in the provincial legislature or in the province."
The ANC chose Ebrahim Rasool to lead their election campaign in the Western Cape. He was recalled in 2008 for handing out stuffed brown envelopes to journalists for them to tarnish the DA's image, and to write favourably about him. The "new dawn" mixed with some old dawn. Unreal. https://t.co/GVDl0luqk8— Siphamandla (@Sowellnomics) April 23, 2018
He said the ANC found it difficult to "transform from a governing party to an opposition party".
"Cosatu in Western Cape plays a more prominent role than the ANC as an opposition party. I don't think the ANC is strong enough in the province to take on the DA. The organisation of the ANC at a branch level is not well-established," Kotze said.
"Even with the Patricia De Lille issue, the impact this may have on the DA is that it may not be as effective in garnering support from new voters next year. But its current supporters are not going to go to another party."