Turkish-born politician aspires to lead South Africa’s Western Cape

Mehmet Vefa Dağ poses for an interview, Cape Town, South Africa, May 11, 2024. (AA Photo)

By Daily Sabah

Mehmet Vefa Dağ tried his luck in the presidency first years ago, to no avail. This time, he aims for a more “local” vote and hopes to be the first politician of Turkish descent in the seat of premiership in South Africa’s Western Cape.

Approximately 28 million voters in South Africa are preparing to go to the polls on May 29 to elect the president, provincial premiers and MPs. Polls suggest that the African National Congress (ANC), the party in power for 30 years, will poll below 50% for the first time. In what could lead to a coalition government for the first time, this election is considered the most critical since 1994, when the country transitioned from an apartheid regime to a democratic order.

The Land Party’s candidate, Dağ, shared that he was impressed by the country’s first Black president, Nelson Mandela. He became a South African citizen in 2006 and dreams of making Pretoria one of the world’s top 10 economies.

He said South Africa is among the countries with the highest income inequality. “For example, if we enter Cape Town when you enter one side of it, you will see the wealthiest country in the world. We call this Constantia. One or two kilometers (0.6 to 1.2 miles) away, you see the poorest region of the world, which we call Khayelitsha,” the politician said.

Arguing that people, especially young people, became unemployed due to the rich-poor divide, he said unemployed youth got involved with criminals. “It is one of the countries with the highest crime rate. Because the people were left alone.”

Dağ started his career as a candidate for mayor of Cape Town in the 2016 general elections. “We received 7,500 votes in that election. In 2019, we changed our name to the South African National Democratic Movement Party. However, we could not enter the elections due to family problems.

“In 2022, we changed the name of our party again and started to enter the elections nationwide, this time under the name of the Truth and Solidarity Movement. The party could not participate in the elections on May 29 at the national level because of financial problems; we only entered the elections in the Western Cape region.”

About 8 million people live in the Western Cape, and his party seeks to get the support of 1.5 million voters in the region.

Dağ said the Land Party has funded the election campaign so far from its own pockets. “No country or organization has given us financial support. We can say this openly.”

“Approximately 3 million people are currently living in shacks in the Western Cape. We cannot remain silent in the face of such injustice,” he added.

He said the Land Party wants to increase agricultural production and distribute land to South Africans and that they will prevent unemployment. “We will give a certain amount of land to the people; we will support the people with animals and seeds to produce on that land.

“Besides, we will train our people in the field of exports and we promise on behalf of our people that we will work with all our purpose to embrace our country in the international arena in the most perfect way and to bring our country to better places,” Dağ added.

Expressing that the Oppenheimer and Rupert families, two of the richest and well-established families in the country, brought the Zionist idea to South Africa, Dağ said: “When Oppenheimer and Rupert came to this country, their only goal was to exploit the underground riches.

“It is a mentality that has exploited diamond mines, gold mines and other underground riches for years in what we call Kimberley. A mentality that brought the apartheid mentality to this country, thinking that the white race is superior to other races and that the white race can rule everything.”

He said that the mentality of the Oppenheimer and Rupert families supports the current Democratic Alliance (DA) administration in the Western Cape and that the alliance strongly supports Israel.

He said he respected the ANC government’s stance on Palestine, especially International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor. “I recommend my Turkish brothers and sisters to take a special look at South Africa on May 29.”

Referring to Türkiye’s humanitarian projects in Africa, he said: “This is what we like the most while we are in the field.”

He added that with the support of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, they “have projects that have given hope to thousands of people in Africa.”

“When people see that I am of Turkish descent, they embrace me. I would like to see thousands of such projects and I extend my respect and love to our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”