Call for provinces to stay, but not in current form

Following endless debate since 1994 about the necessity and relevance of the provinces, the ANC seems to have agreed to keep them, deciding not to revert to the much-feared centralised government model first proposed during the pre-1994 negotiations.

The matter has been under discussion as the party mulled whether it was time to re-examine the compromise on provinces it made, mainly as a concession to the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom party.

Since then the provincial government has created layers of jobs for top provincial party leaders who became premiers and MECs, as well as the young professionals who run their administrations, and it was never going to be easy to summarily do away with them.

At some point the party considered doing away with provincial legislatures, as most had failed to perform their oversight functions. Now the subcommittee on legislature and governance has concluded that provinces should be kept, but not in their current form. This could mean that some provinces will be merged.

A central recommendation is that their powers and functions be reviewed and strengthened. The party calls this “reforming” and “rationalising” and says it will strengthen the provinces.

But the process of “strengthening” provinces might be easier said than done as the party acknowledges that reform might require constitutional amendment.

The ANC does not have the required two-thirds majority necessary to change the Constitution.

The party said provincial governments should be retained because they support municipalities, ensure the provision of provincial-based services and enhance the system of participatory and representative democracy.

The conclusion has obviated possible tension from regional powerbases, which may have emanated from any proposal to scrap them.

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal. Read more from Rapule Tabane


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