ANC bigwigs read riot act to local leaders

President Jacob Zuma is said to have urged local leaders to make service delivery improvements before the 2016 municipal elections. (Reuters)

President Jacob Zuma is said to have urged local leaders to make service delivery improvements before the 2016 municipal elections. (Reuters)

At a meeting attended by members of provincial leadership structures, premiers and their MECs, the ANC’s senior officials told the leaders to clean up their act, stop corruption, take responsibility for wrongs committed by the party’s deployees and communicate more with citizens.

Of the party’s top six, Jacob Zuma (president), Cyril Ramaphosa (deputy president), Zweli Mkhize (treasurer general), Gwede Mantashe (secretary general) and Jessie Duarte (deputy secretary general) were present. The only one missing was national chairperson Baleka Mbete, who had commitments in Parliament.

The meeting, held on Wednesday at St George’s Hotel in Centurion, marked another step towards polishing Zuma’s image in his second term as head of state.

The Mail & Guardian spoke to six provincial leaders, two each from Gauteng, the North West and the Western Cape, who all confirmed that the ANC’s top officials talked tough on issues that they see as discrediting the ruling party. 

It was the first meeting of its kind since the ANC began governing South Africa 20 years ago and those who attended said it proved that the party “acknowledges that a lot has changed”.

Service delivery focus
In his political overview, Zuma is said to have focused on service delivery, urging leaders to make improvements before the 2016 municipal elections.

Those who spoke to the M&G did not want to be named because they are not mandated to speak on behalf of the party’s national leadership. 

“He said we must address issues that people raised during door-to-door campaigns and, if we don’t address them, they might cost us in the local government elections,” a North West provincial leader said.

A Western Cape provincial executive committee (PEC) member said that, although the meeting’s main focus was on service delivery, the ANC’s senior officials emphasised that the party has had enough of scandals and fruitless expenditure in government.

“We were warned that there would be no more stealing from the taxpayers. [The leadership said:] ‘Use your own salaries or we’ll get rid of you,’” the PEC member said.
“If you want KFC or if your children need bodyguards, use your own money to secure them.

“They warned that they will be keeping their eyes on the newly elected ministers, their deputies and the provincial cabinets. And if you are caught, you are out,” the Western Cape leader said.

Human resources
Premiers and MECs were also told to appoint qualified people and to stop firing heads of department and replacing the existing employees when they occupy their new offices.

The ANC appears to be worried about the 2016 local government elections, particularly after faring badly in big metropolitan municipalities in the recent national elections.

A Gauteng leader said there was a general admission that last month’s poll was “not an easy election”.

Another Western Cape PEC member said the meeting was “long overdue” and was meant to sort the ANC out. “The feeling from the officials was that it is 18 months before the local government elections and if we don’t learn from our mistakes and take stock, we are bound to repeat them.”

“The message was that we shouldn’t wait for the national general council [a midterm national conference], but that as provincial leaders we know what we have done wrong or right and how to fix things going forward,” one leader said.

What could have been
A North West leader said: “Actually, if we were in local government elections, we could have lost several municipalities.”

Those representing the ANC in government were apparently told they were there not because of any individual but because of the ANC.

Zuma also told the meeting that he was under pressure from other African leaders and former liberation movements on the continent. “He said these guys are telling him that it’s painful to see an ANC in decline and that it would badly affect the continent,” a Western Cape leader said.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said communication regarding the Wednesday meeting will “form part of our [national executive committee] statement”.

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