Hell Inc — In 2024, the ANC will have to pay for the local governance mess it created
The standard of living continues to decline for the majority in South Africa, and one of the biggest reasons is local governance issues. Despite strong statements on this from President Cyril Ramaphosa, it is extremely unlikely that it will change in the near future. As a result, it is likely that the ANC will be judged on how its councillors have behaved. Those judgments can only be harsh on the ruling party and could cost it power in the national elections.
Ten days ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa framed the failure of councils to provide proper services as a human rights issue.
He was talking specifically about water services and all others which have a direct impact on voters’ daily lives.
It is clear that almost every South African has found that their lived experience and the “services” they receive from the government have declined dramatically in the last three years.
While perhaps the most important problems in this regard are electricity and the rising crime (and particularly murder) rate, almost all of the other issues emanate from local government failures.
These include water outages, potholes, a lack of sanitation and refuse removal, and so many other failures.
There can be no doubt of the ANC’s primary culpability in this.
First, there is plenty of evidence, particularly from reports by the Auditor-General, that it is the governance of the ANC which is to blame.
Then there is the strange, but politically potent comment by the leader of the ANC, Ramaphosa himself, last year.
While opening the ANC’s policy conference in July 2022 he said (from 1:08):
“Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who has the responsibility as the Minister of Cooperative Governance, always says to us … President, the problem of the state of local government is us as the African National Congress. We are the problem. We are the ones who are causing the problems, and as a result, communities protest. And when they protest for lack of service delivery and many other problems, they are protesting against us.”
It is, by any measure, an extraordinary admission of guilt by the leader of the party that it is responsible for what has happened. And it was, perhaps, a ploy by Ramaphosa to bring Dlamini Zuma in as the one also believing that the ANC was responsible.
During that address, Ramaphosa went further, saying many of the problems in local government come at the interface of politicians and administrators. In other words, there is no clear line between party and state in councils.
This is well known and generally accepted as a fact of life in South Africa.
There are many stories of people applying for a cleaning job at a municipality who needed political support to get the position. A position which can change the life chances of their entire family.
While Ramaphosa has made this admission and also accepted that the ANC’s failure in councils amounts to an abuse of human rights, it is clear that neither the President nor the ANC will be able to fix it.
Take, for example, the incredibly broken council of Ditsobotla, a place which has become a symbol of the lived experience of political dysfunction.
There, after years of ANC “governance” (including a period in which there were two ANC mayors and two ANC Speakers), the party fell to just 39% in a poll last year. In the end, the Patriotic Alliance, through a deal with several other parties including the ANC, was able to secure the position of mayor.
They gave that position to Elizabeth Lethoko.
She said she was so upset by a planned act of “corruption” by the ANC in the council that she resigned immediately.
The next day she retracted her resignation.
Perhaps the fact that she had been convicted of fraud when she was the ANC’s mayor aided her recovery from the intense shock she had received the day before.
As mentioned, in her recent past, she had been convicted of fraud, while she was the ANC’s mayor in the council.
She is now the mayor again. With the active connivance of the ANC.
A pastor steps in
Meanwhile, on Friday, the ANC in Waterberg, in the Thabazimbi Local Council in Limpopo, went ahead with the swearing-in process of a mayor. As SABC News reported, no magistrate would conduct the ceremony, saying that there were still legal processes to be completed.
So, instead, a local pastor was pressed into service.
This means that representatives of the governing party and a person who professes to be a religious leader have committed a plainly illegal act, in a ceremony which will surely be found to have no legal standing. (Did they equate it to a marriage ceremony? — Ed)
In the past, this kind of politics appeared to be confined to smaller rural councils. Now, again largely thanks to the ANC’s “governance”, it has arrived in Gauteng’s metros.
The party in Gauteng is working with the EFF. But from what is currently understood, ANC leaders will not allow them to vote for an EFF mayor. As the EFF will in turn not vote for an ANC mayor, a minority party candidate was elected in Joburg, and another may soon be elected in Tshwane (again…).
The Gauteng ANC leader, Premier Panyaza Lesufi, has admitted that discussions in the ANC about this issue are very difficult. But he has not confirmed whether, in fact, Ramaphosa himself objected to a deal with the EFF in an ANC meeting. That would be the very same EFF which tried to paralyse South Africa on 20 March while protesting against Ramaphosa’s record. (Ramaphosa happens to be ANC president.)
All of this is happening in public, and voters are very aware of the dynamics and of how these parties are scheming to get into power. They are also, presumably, aware of the divisions within the ANC on this.
It has been reported that the ANC could lose votes because it is working with the EFF, while the EFF could well lose votes because it is working with the ANC.
All of this underscores Ramaphosa’s problem.
He is aware, on the one hand, that how councils are run may well cost the ANC next year’s elections.
And on the other, it is the actions of people in his own party that are making it difficult to resolve those very same local council problems.
It is highly unlikely that this contradiction will be resolved before next year’s elections. There are probably only two ways for the ANC to win that poll: it must either actually make a difference in people’s lives, or give voters a strong reason for hope or a belief that things will change.
Neither of these is likely to happen. Despite Ramaphosa’s warnings, the ANC will definitely be judged on its performance in local government in the national elections. The mess they got themselves into might be the very same mess that gets them below 50%. The kind of Faustian deal they will have to make to stay in power may well define South Africa’s future.
As in so many countries before, beware of the liberation movement on the verge of losing after many decades in power. Hell has been the outcome way too many times. DM