Popularity will not guarantee mayoral selection — Ramaphosa

On the eve of the governing party delivering its manifesto, ANC leader President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed confidence in the ANC’s council candidates, but acknowledged that the party had made errors that resulted in disputes

Ramaphosa was speaking at the ANC’s manifesto preview, at which 16 young and diverse ANC council candidates were introduced. 

Ramaphosa attended the event after campaigning in Tembisa, where he was met by disgruntled residents, who are experiencing service delivery problems. 

Ramaphosa went to great lengths in his speech to commend the ANC for selecting women and young people as council candidates. 

He said, in choosing candidates for this year’s local government elections, the ANC was determined to deepen community participation in the process and assign oversight of the selection process to an electoral committee, led by the elders of the movement. 

“We want our candidates to reflect the great diversity of the South African people, reinforcing the reality that the African National Congress, more than any other political formation in our country, represents the interests and the aspirations of the South African nation,” Ramaphosa said. 

“That is what we have here among these candidates. At least a quarter of our candidates are young people, with our youngest candidates being just 20 years of age. They will bring greater energy and innovation to local government, and a far deeper understanding of the needs of young people.” 

He added that 46% of all ANC candidates are women, which confirmed the ANC’s commitment to gender equality and the achievement of a non-sexist society. 

The party will, however, endeavour to increase the percentage to 50% gender parity in all spheres of government, he said. 

Ramaphosa promised to act firmly against any manipulation during the selection of council candidates. 

Candidate selection disputes

The ANC has been rocked by hundreds of disputes involving council candidate selections at the branch and regional levels, with a significant number of its branches complaining that secretaries and branch leaders interfered in the process. Some branch general meetings and community meetings degenerated in violence when ANC members fought over candidates. 

“We deeply regret these instances. They do not represent the ANC candidate selection process, which, for the most part, was democratic, inclusive, free and fair,” Ramaphosa said. 

He said the party would be investigating complaints and disputes. 

“Where we fault, where we find wrongdoing, we will act and if it does, in the end, result in any one of our leaders being implicated in wrongdoing, the NEC [national executive committee] has declared that we should act. If, for instance, [we find] a candidate who should never have been chosen or nominated to hold a particular position, we will act as well on that,” he said. 

Ramaphosa said the party had high expectations of the ANC council candidates to display leadership and inspire party volunteers through their example of hard work, discipline and dedication. 

He said council candidates must not make empty promises, but rather listen to people to find lasting solutions. 

‘Ethical servant leadership’

“We instruct them to be the embodiment of ethical servant leadership, to fight against corruption and mismanagement, and continually improve the functioning of local government to be the best councillors our nation has seen. We demand from them that, if elected, and throughout the five years of their term, they stay close to the communities that have entrusted them with a solemn mandate,” Ramaphosa said. 

“They must remain in close and constant contact with residents, providing information, answering questions and addressing concerns. As part of the renewal of our movement, and to strengthen local government leadership, we have implemented a rigorous interview process to select ANC mayoral candidates. This is to ensure that every person who is placed in this crucial leadership position in ANC-led municipalities has the experience, capabilities and commitment to fulfil that responsibility,” he continued. 

Ramaphosa told attendees that regions would no longer have any say on the selection of mayors. He said this would be a rigorous process, involving top leadership and provincial executive committees. 

Mayors must have experience, capability and commitment to the job, he said. 

“We are not going to drop any balls. We are going to pick the best, the cream of the crop. So if you are the popular one you are not guaranteed,” Ramaphosa said. “This is a new era that we are ushering in, and this time around we are very serious, because what we have been through has demonstrated to us [that we] had to do more.” 

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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