Fixing, not ruling, on Makhura's mind
Gauteng Premier David Makhura this week appeared resigned to the possibility of the ANC losing power in Gauteng in 2019, but insists it would not be as a result of poor performance by his administration.
Instead, it would have everything to do with people’s anger with national leaders for the party’s failure to act against President Jacob Zuma after the Nkandla scandal and the former public protector’s damning State of Capture report.
While many of his comrades in the ANC are preoccupied by infighting, Makhura seems to have stuck firmly to his task in trying to bring about clean governance in his administration. Under his leadership, the provincial government has so far instituted disciplinary proceedings against 125 officials and an MEC.
This week, the Gauteng premier said he has laid criminal charges against former sports department head Namhla Siqaza, who was fired after she allegedly tried to bribe two officials from the auditor general’s office to give her department a clean audit report.
Makhura has reportedly also threatened to axe more heads of department and institute legal proceedings against former sport, arts and culture MEC Molebatsi Bopape for allegedly interfering with supply chain management processes.
Makhura’s no-nonsense approach is beginning to pay off, with all the provincial departments and government agencies receiving unqualified audit reports for the 2015-2016 financial year for the first time in many years.
Under his leadership, Gauteng recorded the highest rate of job creation during the second quarter (July to September) of this financial year. More than 126 000 jobs were created, decreasing unemployment by 0.4% over the same period.
His administration has also intensified its development of township economies and has spent more than R6.8-billion on goods and services from township-based businesses. But Makhura is well aware that his hard work might not do enough to arrest the party’s electoral decline in Gauteng.
This year’s local government elections have proven that the ANC is vulnerable even in seemingly well-run municipalities such as Johannesburg and Tshwane – owing to national ANC politics.
A number of the party’s veterans, some of its national executive committee members and, most recently, members of its integrity commission have all publicly questioned Zuma’s leadership.
Makhura told the Mail & Guardian he is worried the ANC is deviating from its historical path.
“The pulse of the ANC has always been the plight of ordinary people. That’s what the ANC taught [us], that doing things for others is more noble than just doing things for yourself,” he said.
“So when the ANC’s capacity to care about the plight of the people gets eroded by things we may be doing as ANC members, it’s hurtful. It’s hurtful for many people.”
South Africa is at the point where its leaders should ask themselves why they became politicians and interrogate their passion for serving the public, he said.
“If more people question the reason and logic of government decisions and if people start thinking we make these decisions because we are putting our own friends and families in there, there’s no reason for us to be in politics.”
The ANC in Gauteng is prepared to take up the opposition benches if citizens decide to vote a new party into power, he said.
“We’re not in politics because we must be in power. If we end up in opposition and that’s the will of the people, we will do so with dignity.”
Makhura’s main worry is the stubbornly high level of unemployment and deepening poverty within both the province and the country.
“I don’t want, every day, to be worried here about winning elections. I must be worried about solving people’s problems. If what we are doing is solving people’s problems and responding to people’s needs, I’m happy.”
He hoped that Gauteng voters will judge the governing party in the province based on its work and not on national politics. He told the M&G his provincial government wants to create a legacy that won’t be eroded even if another party assumes power in 2019.
Makhura has insisted that all 15 provincial departments in Gauteng should have an open tender process in a bid to ensure transparency. So far, 72 projects worth R10-billion have reportedly been awarded using the open tender system.
In September Makhura announced the Gauteng government would sell off more than 400 of its properties that weren’t contributing to service delivery or infrastructure development.
This week the government launched an online public auction, starting with the premier’s official residence in Bryanston, which has a starting bid of R9-million. Makhura said selling the properties would cut maintenance costs and contribute funds towards the government’s modernisation and reindustrialisation priorities.
“I’m hoping that the programmes we are carrying out will have such an impact … that even if you were to have another government, they will find it difficult to stop that.
“Even if the opposition doesn’t like the fact that we are doing well, the evidence is so strong that they can’t put us down,” he said.
Gauteng was one of the first ANC structures to speak out against Zuma after the Constitutional Court judgment on the Nkandla matter. The province called on Zuma to “do the right thing” and fix the damage caused by the debacle.
ANC branches in the province have also been hostile towards Zuma, with Johannesburg branches in particular calling for him to step down. The Sefako Makgatho branch has said the ANC is at risk of losing its moral standing if it fails to act against him.