Are 'District Champions' part of 'top secret' ANC power grab plot?
7 July 2020
The Democratic Alliance (DA) can confirm that the national government is now “deploying" ministers and deputy ministers to local and provincial governments as part of the Command Council system.
Letters have been sent to premiers and mayors informing them of who their “District Champions” are - the selfsame proposal of “district political champions” is used in the government document revealed by the DA yesterday, and marked “top secret”.
The document describes the Covid-19 pandemic as an ideal opportunity for the centralisation of government power. It touts the government’s District Development Plan as the mechanism to achieve this aim.
As the DA said yesterday: we are worried that the document might signal the ANC’s intention to roll back the powers of elected local and provincial governments, and so we are putting a formal parliamentary question to President Cyril Ramaphosa to find out whether the document reflects the government’s thinking.
In the meantime, the deployment letters sent to mayors and premiers do not specify what powers and responsibilities the deployed District Champions will have.
The DA believes that some municipalities have declined the invitation to accept their appointed District Champions, at least until the President has clarified their terms of reference.
While it is essential for all spheres of government to cooperate to improve services and defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, this starts with ministers doing their day jobs with diligence and care.
Some of these ministers, including Bheki Cele at Police, Lindiwe Zulu at Social Services, and Ebrahim Patel at Trade and Industry have been at the centre of undermining government efforts to fight the pandemic.
Even the Department of Cooperative Governance have been singularly uncooperative. Months after President Cyril Ramaphosa promised billions in aid to lockdown-ravaged municipalities, it is still not clear if and when municipalities will receive this assistance.
In places like the Govan Mbeki Local Municipality, where the Bethal/Emzinoni community have been suffering load-shedding of up to 12 hours a day since the start of the lockdown, national government is yet to use its existing powers to broker a deal to help the delinquent municipality service its Eskom debt.
In addition to clarity on the so-called top secret document, the DA will now also ask the President to take the country into his confidence about what he is sending his ministers and deputy ministers to do in their role as District Champions.
For one, we want to know whether the country and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic will not be better served if the President in fact better supervises his own ministers instead of sending them to supervise mayors and premiers.
Issued by Cilliers Brink, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs, 7 July 2020