NEWS & ANALYSIS

ANC planning to walk over constitution - Helen Zille

The DA leader says the draft constitution amendment bill is proof of ruling party plan

ANC determined to abuse power and walk over Constitution

The announcement today that Cabinet has approved the draft Constitution 17th Amendment Bill, which empowers national government to usurp powers from local government, provides clear proof that the ANC wants to change the Constitution to entrench its power. That is why it is so important to keep the ANC below the two-thirds majority it needs to pass the Bill to change the Constitution. If voters give the ANC a two-thirds majority, the ANC will destroy the capacity of other parties to deliver where they govern.

When I raised concerns about this Bill on Monday, the Minister of Provincial and Local Government denied any knowledge of it. He said, "If Mrs Zille has such a document, she must produce it". A spokesperson for his Department also feigned ignorance, claiming: "I don't know where [Zille] got it from but right now, as we stand there are no such plans". ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte said: "The ANC wishes to place on record that it has no intention to diminish in any way the constitutional powers of local government".

This shows that the ANC lies, baldly and blatantly. It treats the people of South Africa with contempt. The rug has now been ripped from under the ANC, and six days before the election, Cabinet has been forced into confessing its plans.

What we warned about on Monday has now come to pass: The ANC wants municipalities to be reduced to administrative arms of central government. The ANC now claims the purpose is merely to facilitate the introduction of Regional Electricity Distributors as Public Entities. We believe this policy step would be a grave mistake on its own and seriously threaten the viability of local government. But the way the Bill is worded means that its scope is far broader than that. It enables national government to "limit the executive authority of municipalities in respect of local government matters listed in Part B of Schedule 4 and Part B of Schedule 5". This includes electricity and gas reticulation, water and sanitation, fire-fighting, refuse removal, waste disposal, markets, municipal roads and cleansing.

This Bill will be interpreted widely to enable a centralised ANC to severely limit the mandate of an elected local government, especially where the ANC does not govern and where local authorities legitimately refuse to implement ANC policies. 

If it manages to pass this Constitutional amendment, giving itself a range of reasons to undermine local government, the ANC could effectively nullify voters' choice and enforce ANC policy from the centre. The ANC will be able to continue its power abuse by removing important constitutional mechanisms that local governments can currently use to counter such abuse. 

Some ANC spokespersons claim the Bill is necessary to deal with dysfunctional local governments. But the national government is often more dysfunctional than local governments, and further centralization is bound to aggravate rather than alleviate the problem. The real solution for dysfunctional governments, at all levels, is to employ the right people in the right positions and to scrap cadre deployment.

If this Bill is rammed through Parliament by the ANC, we will continue the trend towards centralisation, cadre deployment, corruption and the criminalised state - because all other centres of power and authority are increasingly being rendered toothless.

The ANC needs a two-thirds majority to pass the Bill and amend the Constitution. Its intentions are now clear, despite its earlier denials and lies.

Come 22 April, it is vital that we keep the ANC below a two-thirds majority, so that it cannot pass this Bill and make other changes to the Constitution that will allow it to continue its power abuse. Every South African must know the dangers of a Zuma two-thirds majority. The announcement by Cabinet today confirms those dangers.

The only way to stop the ANC from abusing its power is by voting DA on 22 April.

Statement issued by Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille, April 16 2009

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