ANC squirms over voter discontent
Unnerved by the serious prospect of being rejected by voters, the ANC concedes that people’s patience is wearing thin – and that the party must create jobs, deliver quality services, end corruption and load-shedding, and hire competent people.
It’s not the first time the party has raised the issue of threats to its electoral fortunes, but it has now admitted it has failed to remedy them.
The sluggish economy and bleak global outlook are an added headache for the party that has ruled South Africa for 21 years.
Party secretary general Gwede Mantashe and President Jacob Zuma, worried about the local polls next year, following a tough general election last year, are demanding that its government representatives must show a sense of urgency.
Both delivered reports at the party’s national executive committee lekgotla, an expanded forum that includes many public officials.
In his report, Zuma also reminded ANC leaders that political instability, weaknesses in governance and appointing the wrong people were responsible for poor municipal services.
Thousands of protesters take to the streets every year, often resorting to violence, to demand better services and accountable leadership. There are fears that the ANC, which lost several seats in the general elections last year, and only won Gauteng by a whisker, could lose key metros such as Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
Zuma said: “The ANC must seriously discuss the criteria for selection of councillors for the next term of local government elections.”
But the party under Zuma is accused of failing to implement a 2013 report by party leader and African Union Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in which she pointed out serious defects in the leadership’s selection of party candidates for councils.
Mantashe, in his report, titled Implementing a Radical Economic Transformation: Reality or Myth, appealed for a serious assessment of government progress in the past six months “to understand why all our efforts do not yield the expected results with regard to reducing unemployment and inequality, and eradicating poverty”.
“Except for the impact made by social grants, we are making little progress … This is serious as the patience of our people is running thin, particularly in the face of agitation for discontent.”
Corruption was one of the key issues in the 2014 elections and has become a political thorn in the ANC’s side, which has been compounded by the fact that the elephant in the room – the controversial Nkandla security upgrades – is not going away.
The party believes that civil servants are, at times, oversensitive when responding to allegations of corruption, thus perpetuating perceptions that South Africa is the most corrupt country on the continent.
“The perception and image of our country can only be changed by concrete programmes that lead to prosecution and conviction of those involved. We must be bold in dealing with corruption within our ranks, first, and in society more broadly.”
Mantashe has also raised the matter of name-dropping, which he described as a new phenomenon to secure business deals unfairly.
“How widespread is the practice of name-dropping when transgressions are committed in the public sector and, therefore, end up dragging the ANC in the mud when resources are being leaked?”
He asked the ANC, which has not implemented the integrity committee’s recommendations to deal with rotten apples in the party, to take the ethics of civil servants into account.
“But also important is whether the people we have in the state are [of] the calibre that they can steer clear of such manipulations and unethical behaviour. Therefore, our assessment should transcend the debate about the skills capacity and include ethical conduct and attitude.”
Mantashe said the ANC-led alliance had also discussed how the business interests of some of its leaders had resulted in the manipulation of political and administrative processes for their own benefit at the expense of the people.
The party has realised that the energy crisis is not going to go away soon. The lekgotla heard that the energy problem will persist until at least 2020. The party admits that its failure to provide certainty and frequent hikes in the cost of electricity were eroding the public’s confidence.
“Energy infrastructure seems to be overshadowed by regular load- shedding. We don’t seem to have the necessary focus and provide necessary information publicly on progress underway regarding infrastructure roll-out.
“We have been talking about three power stations under construction but [we are] noncommittal when society can expect them commissioned. Regular above-inflation tariff increases in the midst of load- shedding cannot instil confidence,” Mantashe said.
Cost to growth
In his report, Zuma said the treasury estimated that the outages were costing the economy nearly one percentage point in growth.
The party also blamed its own government for being slow in creating decent work opportunities to grow the economy.
To meet targets before the next general elections, Zuma urged every public representative and government department to move swiftly to implement programmes to address the needs of the people.
“Lekgotla should ask if we understand the urgency of this call,” he said.
The ANC, which has promoted cadre deployment, is now questioning whether state employees have the necessary skills and whether the state has the capacity to execute, implement and ensure quality of service.
“The ministry of public service and administration has been requested to provide an analysis of the capacity of the state. Injecting funds into ridding us of our challenges is futile when we do not have the required capacity in the state to implement programmes,” said Mantashe.
“Why is there still heavy reliance on consultants when the state is boasting of being the biggest contributor by far to the new jobs created since 2008?” he asked.
Obsession with numbers
Mantashe also asked whether there was an obsession with numbers rather than skills.
With the treasury pointing to a bleak economic future, the ANC wants resources to be allocated to where they are most urgently needed, especially where they could boost growth and create jobs.
Faced with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, the party called on its government representatives at the lekgotla to strike a balance between pushing for higher salaries and creating jobs.
In his presentation, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene warned about the bulging state salary bill. “Money that was held back to support new policy initiatives will be diverted towards compensation.”
Although the ANC had made progress in two of its priorities, health and education, outsourcing in the health sector was of critical concern and had resulted in poor services.
Given its poor performance and failure to implement its promises, the party is considering major policy reviews of issues such as land reform and in sectors that did not yield tangible results. The party also says its failure to move on digital migration is undermining South Africa’s leadership in technology.
“Digital migration remains elusive and weighs heavily on South Africa’s leadership role in the continent. Although all indications are that we are technologically superior, even within SADC [the Southern African Development Community], there is growing concern that we are being overtaken by even some of our smallest neighbours in our ICT [information communications technology] and digital roll-out,” said Mantashe.
It is understood that some ANC leaders raised concerns about how the controversial new visa regulations, aimed at curbing child trafficking, have turned away tourists. The matter has sparked an antagonistic exchange between Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Nene said the regulations were creating uncertainty in several sectors and affecting the economy.