Addressing the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) during his political overview, Ramaphosa, speaking as president of the party, said the party’s experience since the emergence of coalitions in 2016 has demonstrated that “coalition governments are incapable of effectively driving development, providing quality services and ensuring proper accountability”.
“There have been discussions that we must get used to coalition governments, but we cannot and must not because coalitions do not deliver. We need to ask ourselves what is the nature, scale and complexity of the challenge facing local government. We need to consider the impact of counsellor selection and deployment,” he said.
Instead of looking at coalitions, Ramaphosa proposed an overhaul of the party’s selection of mayors, councillors and municipal senior management.
He told the NEC that local government, which is central to delivering services, is in an extremely poor state.
He said the report by the auditor general, Tsakani Maluleke, stated that the financial position of more than a quarter of all municipalities is so dire that there is significant doubt that they could continue operating. Almost half of all municipalities show financial strain; 46 municipalities improved but 61 declined.
“That is not only an indictment of the leadership of those municipalities,” said Ramaphosa. “It is also an indictment of the ANC, which is the governing party in most of these councils.”
He said the financial crisis of the country’s municipalities was part of a far broader crisis of governance, operational performance and legitimacy. This arose from the poor management of the political administrative interface.
“There is weak oversight, poor accountability and inadequate consequence management systems. This is another element that would be addressed by the renewal commission.”
In 2016, voters delivered a stinging rebuke to the ANC, handing the party its first major election setback since it took power.
The ANC lost three of its key metros to a Democratic Alliance-led coalition, as voters opted to show their frustration with the Jacob Zuma-led ANC which was marred by allegations of corruption. The ANC regained the Johannesburg metro after the DA and its coalition partners fell out.
Ramaphosa said another matter of concern was that two-thirds of councillors elected in 2016 were new to the job and there was a frequent turnover of senior management in councils. This has resulted in a loss of skills, experience and institutional memory, he said, adding that it is also a concern that only a third of councillors have post-matric qualifications.
“We, therefore, need to prioritise the selection of skilled and knowledgeable political leaders and senior management that is suited to the task at hand.”
Ramaphosa suggested a more rigorous process of selecting mayors given that the current approach does not produce the results the party needed.
He suggested that the NEC and the national working committee introduce a process of interviewing mayoral candidates to identify strengths and weaknesses once the list of three candidates has been submitted.
He also suggested that the party focus on three key positions — the mayor, the municipal manager and the chief financial officer — of each municipality the party governs.
A municipal manager and the financial officer should only be confirmed for appointment after the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs and the treasury have vetted them.
One of the problems with local government is that it has become a manager of contracts, resulting in a weakened tender system that leads to corruption, patronage and the poor delivery of services.
“We don’t have the skills to manage contracts, especially with respect to financial management. We need to insource so that we can attract young people with skills such as engineers. If we turn around cities and towns, we need to pay attention to procurement management, Ramaphosa said.