ANC seeks new grass-roots leaders

Rattled by declining votes in urban areas in recent polls, the ANC has introduced stringent guidelines for selecting candidates for the 2016 local government election. This is to avoid a repeat of 2011, when chosen candidates were rejected by unhappy branches and in some cases accused of causing the electoral losses the party suffered.

According to ANC-reviewed draft guidelines, a copy of which the Mail & Guardian has seen, candidates wanting to represent the ANC next year must, inter alia, possess:

  • Skills in local government;
  • Municipal experience; and
  • Community popularity and a track record in political organisation.

Faced with the threat of losing some of the municipalities it governs, including big metropolitan districts where it has not done well, the ANC seems to be getting tougher on its own. It lost 10% in electoral support in Gauteng in last year’s general elections.  In Ekurhuleni, it dropped from 67.53% in 2009 to 56.41%. It recorded 50.96% in Tshwane and 53.63% in Johannesburg.

 The guidelines call for the screening of candidates by the ANC’s branch selection committees, which would include six senior ANC members and representatives from each of the alliance partners – Cosatu and the SA Communist Party.

 In order to ensure the process is objective, the ANC will ensure that those serving on selection committees have no direct interest in the candidate selection process.

 Unlike in the past where candidate lists were finalised by the ANC, communities will be allowed to grill candidates. If the ANC has its way, prospective councillors will face communities in town hall meetings, where residents can question them. The ANC has chosen potential questions for public interviews such as:

  • What have you done for this community?;
  • What do you see as the main problems [the ANC] must address?;
  • How will you strengthen the work of the council if elected?; and
  • What skills would you bring to council?

The guidelines propose candidates be given equal time to respond and the selection committee must “[consider] the responses of the community meeting … [to determine who] the most suitable nominee is”.

The guidelines, presented to the ANC’s national executive committee meeting last month, encourages members to nominate candidates popular in communities and recognised as local leaders in their own right, even if they are not members of the party.

The ANC wants members to consider candidates influential enough to win support in areas where it has little support. It is trying to avoid unsuitable candidates and will check nominees’ track records, skills and qualifications.

The guidelines say previous employers and referees should be contacted to verify a candidate’s résumé.  

“All nominees should complete a CV and ANC nomination acceptance form, where they agree to abide by the final decisions of the nominations process, ANC discipline, ANC code of conduct and swear [they] do not have a criminal record, [they] have not been declared by a court to be insolvent or of unsound mind, are not living outside the municipality and have not breached the ANC code of conduct and organisational culture.”  

It won’t end there for the 4 000-plus candidates. Short-listed nominees will be vetted by a screening committee after being interviewed.

“This is done through consultation with other community organisations and leading members of the ward,” states the document.

The ward screening committee will consist of a maximum of nine members – among them senior ANC members from the Youth League, the Women’s League and the Veterans’ League. Alliance partners active in the wards will also send one member each to be part of the committee.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa confirmed that the guidelines had been presented to the party’s national executive committee (NEC), but said they were not discussed. He said the document would remain a draft until the inputs from all ANC provincial structures were received, adding it was important for the ANC to correct itself in order to improve.

Voters queued from before sunrise in Khayelitsha to make their mark in local elections in 2011. (David Harrison, M&G)

“In the past, the ANC imposed candidates on the community; now we feel it is important to have candidates who are known in their communities … A popular candidate might not necessarily be an ANC member; the ANC must embrace that. The ANC will have its own meetings and put three names forward. The candidate must not only be the favourite of the ANC, but of the community. [But] obviously the ANC can’t agree with right-wing candidates,” he said.

Asked if the ANC was panicking about local government elections, Kodwa said: “Elections are never obvious, unless we are in a dictatorship. In local government, elections are based on issues. We have nothing to worry about. We have no reason to doubt the ANC will win again. In many areas where our support dropped, it is not because of the opposition’s strength, but because of infighting in the party … [which] has handed people’s power to the opposition. In Gauteng we dropped 10% because many people did not vote. People are not angry with the ANC but with particular individuals.”

He said he did not expect revolt over the new guidelines. “We sent the draft document to provinces to make sure there is no revolt. Leadership is not an entitlement, but an expression of the people.” He said the ANC needs “leaders with high moral and ethical standards … leaders committed to serve the people”.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe would not talk about the document until ANC structures had made their inputs, but added: “We don’t want guidelines that do not resonate with the views of our structures. We are currently engaging them. You should expect there will be some resistance. You must be able to explain when you say you want skilled people, you don’t necessarily mean you want people with degrees, but people with the ability to analyse reports.”

He said the final report will be presented at the next NEC meeting in May.

The ANC’s determination to hold on to South Africa’s major municipalities was evident in another of its documents: Critical Focus Areas in Local Government: Back to Basics – Impactful Implementation, which the M&G reported on in January. In that document, the ANC proposed to haul its corrupt, incompetent councillors before a tribunal and stop its local politicians from meddling in municipal affairs, to show voters the party does not tolerate corruption.

To avoid a repeat of the 2011 local government election fiasco, where candidates who were rejected by the community were included in the final list – leading to disgruntled branches – the ANC now wants full participation by communities in the selection process.

Over the years, factions in the ANC have abused the ANC’s deployment policy, resulting in the appointment of unqualified candidates to key municipal positions.

Following the 2011 elections, the ANC had to initiate an investigation by a task team led by the party’s NEC member and African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The investigation revealed serious irregularities in the ANC’s process of nominating councillor candidates. Of the 419 cases the task team investigated, it recommended the election be re-conducted in 125 wards. Some councillors subsequently stepped down.

Among other things, Dlamini-Zuma’s report revealed some councillors only became ANC members after they were nominated as candidates and people outside the organisation put pressure on branches to choose certain candidates who would facilitate municipal tenders for them.  The investigation also found parallel structures were a common feature, especially in the Eastern Cape, as was gatekeeping, where selective recruitment took place or membership applications were refused without proper reasons.

The ANC is appealing to its members to apply the principles in another of its documents, Through the eye of the needle, to guide members on the calibre of leaders the ANC needs, as well as the party’s 2012 conference resolutions on organisational renewal. That document includes a decision to do away with the practice of factional state politics that characterised the leadership contestation in the run-up to and after the 2007 Polokwane conference.

“Any selection process chosen by the ANC [ahead of 2016] must seek to reduce or eradicate manipulation through loading meetings with supporters and any other negative practices such as manipulating branch membership lists, securing votes through some reward, etcetera. Those engaging in negative practices should be disciplined using the ANC code of conduct,” reads the document.  

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir said the ANC’s panic over next year’s local government elections was not unfounded. “There’s evidence the party has been shedding support since 2009,” he said, adding while the ANC still enjoyed majority support nationally, the local government environment might prove different. 

“It will be difficult for the ANC to use its national appeal at the local level where there are issues of delivery and accountability,” said Fakir.

The ANC councillor in Limpopo’s Greater Tzaneen region, Dodo Mushwana, said while he welcomed the new guidelines, they might cause unhappiness in some quarters.

“Some people might use them to deal with comrades with different views. We support the issue of qualifications; a lot of municipalities … fail to take councillors to do [extra] courses.”

He said the ANC needed to discuss the matter further at its national general council in October.

“The people will prevail at the NGC. If the NGC says councillors must be selected according to qualifications, we will co-operate,” he said.

The screening process of all nominations at branch and community levels must be concluded by October 11, followed by regional list committees at the end of October; provinces are expected to finalise candidate lists by November 15. The candidate selection process ends with a national list conference, which will “ratify or amend” the lists on December 15.

Saboteurs in opposition strongholds warned

With the 2016 local government elections drawing closer, the ANC has warned its members to stop sabotaging the work of the government at the expense of people in areas where it is not the governing party.

“Avoid resorting to destructive protests that may result in the destruction of municipal property or conflict with the SAPS [South African Police Service],” says the party in its guideline document for the 2016 local government elections.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille, through her spokesperson Zak Mbele, has previously blamed ANC member Loyiso Nkohla for the violent protest that saw stalls and shops in the Cape Town city centre looted and property damaged.

Last year Nkohla was expelled from his job as a city councillor after being arrested for leading a protesting group of poo throwers in Cape Town. Following his lead, protesters, most of them ANC supporters, began dumping human faeces on the steps of the Western Cape provincial legislature, at Cape Town International Airport and in other areas around the city when they marched against poor sanitation in informal settlements and townships.

ANC member Loyiso Nkohla was expelled from the Cape Town council after the poo protests. (David Harrison, M&G)

A study by the University of Free State found that service delivery protests in the country increased in 2014, with 176 major protests staged against local governments.

The study, conducted by Sethulego Matebesi, a researcher and senior lecture at the university, found that many of these protests were led by individuals who previously held key positions in the ANC and were prominent local leaders.

Matebesi found that the protests were divided into two groups, each with its own characteristics.

“On the one side, you have highly fragmented residents’ groups that often use intimidation and violence in predominantly black communities.

“On the other side, there are highly structured ratepayers’ associations that primarily use the withholding of municipal rates and taxes in predominantly white communities,” Matebesi’s report says.

The ANC says in its document that it expects members to play the role of a “constructive opposition” where it is not in power, instead of resorting to “petty political point scoring”.

The party wants ANC members to support programmes and budgets that reflect “our policies” and propose constructive alternatives to those that do not.

Instead of taking part in destructive activities, the party called on its members to organise and mobilise residents to ensure that the council delivers services to them. “This work should be constructive, for example, make use of community forums, ward committees, community meetings etc.”

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Matuma Letsoala
Guest Author

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