President Jacob Zuma has promised voters that a vote for the ANC would also mean “a vote for the Constitution of South Africa”.
“The ANC remains committed to the assertion in the Freedom Charter that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
“This assertion is now immortalised in the Constitution of the Republic,” Zuma said as he concluded an almost hour-long speech to launch the party’s local government manifesto in Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday morning.
“A vote for the ANC is a vote for a united, non-racial, democratic, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa,” he said.
Zuma’s speech contained five references to the country’s Constitution, which the Constitutional Court ruled he failed to uphold with regards to his Nkandla estate.
“The ANC is guided by the Constitution of the Republic in all the work it does to improve the quality of life of the people,” he said.
“The Constitution of the Republic calls for the improvement of the quality of life of all citizens and the building of a united and democratic South Africa. It also outlines the socio-economic rights that citizens are entitled to such as the right to water,social security, housing, education, health and others.”
The ANC theme for 2016 is “Advancing People’s Power – Local Government is in your hands.”
Addressing the sometimes contentious issue about selecting councillor candidates for a ward, Zuma said the ANC “heard the call for councillors to be more visible and accessible”.
He said the party ensured that councillors held feedback meetings to report back.
“In cases where some ANC councillors did not perform well, we encouraged communities to hold them accountable and report their concerns.
“We have acted on these concerns by replacing some councillors and strengthening others,” he said, adding that they would have to sign “performance and accountability agreements” in future.
There were some cheers from the crowd as Zuma said progress was being made in the fight against crime and corruption. “A total of 234 government officials were arrested, tried and convicted for corruption related offences since 2014,” he said.
“Government has recovered a total of four billion rand since 2009,” he said, adding: “The anti-fraud and anti-corruption programmes continue.”
He said the ANC would ensure that councillors abide by its code of conduct and the party would prevent municipal officials and councillors and immediate family members from doing business with municipalities.
“The ANC will hold corrupt municipal officials and councillors liable for the losses incurred by the municipality as a result of their corrupt actions.
“The ANC government will also pursue action against companies involved in bid rigging, price fixing and corruption in procurement,” he said.
He also promised that the party would fight crime by strengthening community safety forums and forming street committees, while traditional leaders will be involved in the fight against crime in rural areas.
Zuma’s promises also included more improvements in the rural and agricultural sectors, refuse removal, health, job creation, and better broadband and free wifi services in municipalities.
“The ANC has a concrete plan in place to respond to the slow growth and create jobs. Our municipalities, guided by the National Development Plan, will place job creation and sustainable livelihoods at the centre of their local economic programmes,” he said.
He also said the ANC would “discourage municipalities from outsourcing the basic services that they are able to render themselves”.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, in his message of support, appealed to the ANC to end outsourcing.
“Only the ANC, the governing party, is better placed, experienced and determined to bring about more meaningful change to the lives of our people,” he said.
Less than half of the ANC’s expected 100 000 people turned up to take part in the proceedings, following a few incidents in the city where ANC leaders were snubbed or confronted by angry residents in the week leading up to the manifesto launch.
The programme was delayed by just over an hour, but party chairperson Baleka Mbete declared that 42000 people were recorded as having arrived at the stadium shortly before Zuma spoke. The crowd was restless at times throughout the speech, but there were no booing or disruptions, except for the sound system cutting out briefly, once, when Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle welcomed the audience.