The upcoming local government elections will be the most controversial in decades, as groups led by local communities have emerged across the country to challenge sitting councilors seen as facilitators of the collapse of governance across the country.
One of them is the Setsoto Service Delivery Forum (SSDF), which features 17 candidates in the Eastern Free State, in an area that encompasses the rural cities of Ficksburg, Clocolan, Senekal and Marquard.
These towns are strongholds of the ANC that may be in danger of falling into the hands of new political forces now emerging through the province by very energetic opposition candidates with plenty of ammunition to strike at the rulers.
Other groups have emerged in Qwaqwa, in Maluti, a municipality of Phofung in the Free State, and in Parys, also in the Free State.
Sealane Lephoi, a spokesman for the SSDF, says the reason for the emergence of these localized rebellions is citizen fatigue as their municipalities run out of funds and skills as politically connected individuals make fortunes with corrupt deals at the expense of taxpayers.
“We are going to win these elections,” he says without hesitation.
“We know this because we have been to 90% of the homes in our areas and we have been listening to what people are saying. They are fed up with corruption, not having water, broken drains and potholes. They want basic services and they want economic opportunities. ”
The SSDF cuts across race, class, and profession.
Blacks and whites have found common cause in the campaign to restore good governance to the local municipality. The SSDF public meetings have drawn an enthusiastic crowd eager for real change. Lephoi says there is no doubt that the ANC is about to be defeated. “What we have to watch out for is that the elections are not stolen and we have plans in place to make sure this does not happen.”
He adds: “A lot of people in this area are fed up with politics and are not interested in voting. These are the people we’re busy campaigning with to get to the voting booths on Election Day.
“Voter apathy is what got us into this mess, and this must stop now.”
From disappointed to confident
The Azanian Independent Community Movement (AICM) is contesting 12 municipalities in the North West province, and is confident of winning at least half of them, according to local government coordinator Mandla Mpempe, a former ANC activist who left the party to make a crusade against corruption and bribery at the local level.
Mpempe formed the Center for Good Government and Social Justice, a nonprofit organization, to highlight corruption cases at the local government level and has been a thorn in the side of municipal administrators in the Northwest.
Mpempe’s activism appears to have earned it the enmity of local administrators, who denied the AICM the use of a local multipurpose hall in Mamusa in the northwest, while allowing other parties free access to the same facilities. The AICM was formed to fill a void left by all existing political parties.
“We are not willing to stand by and let the councilors themselves lie and make false promises so that they can be re-elected and receive a good salary,” says Mpempe.
“People here are tired of the corruption, the arrogance of ANC councilors who never hear from once they are elected, and the general disregard for the rule of law and the requirements of public office. So we will present 120 candidates in 12 municipal areas, and we are already a force to be reckoned with in this area. ”
Like the SSDF, the AICM is less interested in fighting ideological battles forged in Moscow or Washington than in bringing practical improvements to the lives of local residents.
To this end, it also cuts across the divisions of race and class. However, his manifesto is progressive and pro-poor, but anti-corruption and promises radical improvements in service delivery.
‘A manifesto like no other’
Last week, the Makana Citizens Front (MCF) in the Eastern Cape launched its manifesto in Soccer City in Nelson Mandela Bay to an enthusiastic crowd.
“This is a manifesto like no other: it is the voice of the people, not a document written by a committee or an advertising agency. The first line of the Freedom Charter is “The people will rule!” The MCF manifesto brings that to life, ”says Lungile Mxube, MCF coordinator.
History was made last year when the Eastern Cape Provincial Executive was ordered to dissolve the Makana municipality and appoint an administrator until a new council is elected.
The ANC decided to appeal the conviction, which ruled that it had not provided services to the community in a sustainable manner, nor did it offer a safe and healthy environment, among other findings.
Read: Municipal Election Candidates Must Keep Their Promises: Ramaphosa
The MCF was formed to restore ethical leadership in Makana and, like the other groups fighting the ANC across the country, is committed to genuine non-racism, while deploring xenophobia and racial polarization. Mxube tells Moneyweb that while his group has been filling hallways and rally venues, the ANC has had trouble gathering a crowd of 20.
“We are an apolitical organization that is not based in Johannesburg, nor does it have a provincial headquarters.
“Our mission is simple: we want the return of basic services, we want to work with law enforcement agencies to lock up corrupt officials and combat violence of all kinds, we want to get rid of the ghost workers who earn wages every month, and they will investigate the corrupt tenders that have been awarded over the years, ”says Mxube.
“We will be contesting 13 of the 14 districts in this area, and we are absolutely certain to win and get rid of the headlines that allowed this terrible situation to unfold.”
The need for change
The state of local governance in South Africa is dire, as the Auditor General constantly reminds us.
Earlier this year, we learned that only 27 municipalities out of 257 across the country received clean audits. The same AG report indicates that 163 of the 257 municipalities, almost two out of three, are currently in financial difficulties.
A new PwC report – ‘South Africa Economic Outlook, Elections 2021: Improving Municipal Finances to Support Socio-Economic Recovery’ – suggests that municipalities are in real financial trouble as transfers from national to local government are falling instead of increase.
Total transfers actually fell from R138.5 billion to R138.4 billion in 2021/2. While “conditional grants” from national to local government are increased from R40 billion to R45.5 billion, “equitable sharing” is lowered from R84.5 billion to R78 billion.
PwC says: “With the municipal elections to take place on November 1, political parties are campaigning with promises to improve the results of municipal service delivery.
“However, the financial health of the municipalities is a particular concern for the provision of services and the socio-economic recovery of the country in the short and medium term. Municipalities need adequate funding to provide the essential services needed to create an environment conducive to doing business and growing the economy after last year’s recession. To finance these services, they depend on a combination of transfers from the national government and their own sources of income. ”
Municipal income of the national government (Rbn)
This small town rebellion sometimes ends in the courts, as when the Northwest High Court ordered the residents of Kgetlengrivier in Northwest Province to take control of the area’s sewer and water works after the municipality local will bury the plants and abandon them. mail.
In the agricultural town of Bethal in Mpumalanga, an association of local residents recently took the local municipality of Govan Mbeki and Eskom to court, claiming that power outages of up to 20 hours a day are threatening livelihoods and health. of residents.
Neil Gopal, Executive Director of the SA Homeowners Association (Sapoa) says that we should not rejoice in cases where citizens run municipalities effectively.
“These are signs of an unfortunate failure on the part of the government that will come with its own consequences. Of course we are concerned about these court rulings. [such as the one involving Kgetlengrivier].
“We are in uncharted territory here,” Gopal says. What can we expect next? That the Constitutional Court hand over the government of the country to its citizens?
The civic forums that are springing up across the country no longer expect their local governments to reform, nor do they believe in promises to “give us another chance and we’ll do better next time.”
They are bringing the revolution right to the doorstep of bankrupt municipalities, Gopal says, and they are planning, not just to win a few seats, but to take control.