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Parks Tau positions himself to capture Gauteng

The ANC’s leadership contest in the country’s economic powerhouse of Gauteng is hotting up ahead of the party’s provincial elective congress next month.

So far, it is likely that David Makhura will retain the position of chairperson — and therefore will remain the province’s premier. Since Paul Mashatile’s elevation to national leadership, Makhura has been acting chairperson in the ANC in Gauteng.

But the race for the post of his deputy is wide open, with education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, economic development MEC Lebogang Maile and former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau being nominated.

Tau’s supporters are not deterred by his poor showing during the initial stages of nominations. He only received support from his region of Johannesburg after the party’s regional executive committee resolved to put his name forward for the position.

Although he appears not to enjoy as much support in the four other ANC regions as Lesufi and Maile, Tau’s backers believe he stands a good chance of being elected because of his close ties with Makhura.

If the upcoming provincial conference is decided with slates, Tau would stand a good chance to be elected alongside Makhura, who, until recently, enjoyed overwhelming support from all regions. Tau’s election as his deputy would put him in line to take over from Makhura, say his supporters.

They believe his track record as mayor of one of Africa’s largest cities puts him in pole position. They’ve even gone as far as comparing him with counterparts in France who first served as mayors and later became state presidents such as former French state presidents Jacques Chirac (Paris), Nicolas Sarkozy (Neuilly-sur-Seine) and François Hollande (Tulle).

“He [Tau] qualifies to take over [as deputy ANC provincial chairman]. Many leaders, if you take France for instance, former presidents and prime ministers there were once mayors of big cities like Paris,” said a senior Gauteng ANC leader who supports Tau’s bid. “The man has led Jo’burg and he will do well to lead Gauteng beyond Makhura.”

Tau has held various positions in local government over the past 18 years. These include serving on mayoral committees — from development planning, transport and environment to finance and economic development. He also served as the ANC regional secretary from 1993 to 1998 and the party’s deputy chairperson from 2007 to 2011 before he was elected regional chairperson. He has chaired the South African Local Government Association in Gauteng since 2011.

Dada Morero, the ANC regional co-ordinator in Johannesburg, said Tau represented a leadership quality that Gauteng would need to move it forward.

He said Tau’s work on transforming apartheid spatial planning in the city would benefit the province because this “is still a challenge in Gauteng”. He also spoke highly of Tau’s “co-production programme” while he was mayor, which involved “sharing the service delivery budget with communities — where you create co-operatives so that they can participate economically into service delivery programmes”.

“We think we are offering the people of Gauteng somebody that we think has great leadership qualities that can drive [service delivery programmes] to greater heights,” said Morero.

In an interview on Thursday, Tau said although he recognised that the nomination process was still at branch level, he was humbled by the confidence showed by the regional executive committee in his leadership.

“Having been part of the leadership of both the ANC and government in Johannesburg gives one an extensive knowledge and experience in dealing with issues like structural policy and institutional issues of the organisation,” he said. His experience would also help in “ensuring the ANC continues to provide leadership on matters of governance, environment and urbanising at a very fast pace”.

If elected, Tau said one of his key priorities as part of the ANC’s oversight of government would be institutional stability and addressing key developmental issues. “These would include key challenges affecting young people of our country and development policies that are targeted at ensuring that the youth receives focused attention.” 

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