Exercise power with care

The ANC tends to dismiss any complaints about its consolidation of power as criticism motivated by anti-majoritarian liberalism. (Gallo)

The ANC tends to dismiss any complaints about its consolidation of power as criticism motivated by anti-majoritarian liberalism. (Gallo)

People who raise ­concerns about proposals to change the Constitution or about crony deployment are casually written off as bitter supporters of the Democratic Alliance.

But if the ANC is to be both democratic and hegemonic, as it insists it must be, it has a responsibility to be careful in the exercise of power.

The DA has complained that by trying to merge the only municipality it governs in Gauteng, Midvaal, into a bigger metro, the ruling party is gerry­mandering to wipe the pesky opposition party from the provincial map. The ANC insists that the idea is to get rid of small municipalities that are not viable and consolidate them into bigger, more workable entities.

Ahead of the 2011 municipal election, the ANC sent in heavyweights to campaign, spent heavily and allegedly even tried transporting voters from outside the area to tilt the scales, but failed. So it is inevitable that the DA will suspect political motivation in the demarcation exercise.

The ANC is three weeks away from its policy conference, where dysfunctional local government will be high on the agenda. In its discussion documents the party correctly identifies poor governance and accountability as its Achilles heel. “Levels of trust in local government have declined sharply ... participatory government has lost meaning … and in its place have risen communities who feel alienated and disconnected from decision-making.”

The diagnosis is correct and the solutions, although vague, strike the right note. Ward committees should be made up of representatives of residents, ratepayers and community organisations to free them from domination by alliance politicians. The party also recommends a clear separation of ­powers between the executive and council so that councillors can hold mayoral ­committees to account.

It is on the measures of returning local government to the people and restoring credibility that the ANC should focus. The demarcation board, which the ANC already says should be more tightly controlled by the government, should not have its arm twisted into finding party-political solutions. If it is, the protestors throwing rocks and burning council offices will be the ANC’s former supporters and the party will have only itself to blame.



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