Should the provinces be abolished? - Mantashe

ANC Secretary General asks whether the cost is worth it

Advancing attributes of a Developmental State

The ANC will be holding Centenary celebrations in 2012. Further, in 2014 South Africa will be celebrating 20 years of democratic governance. These important milestones gives the ANC a good opportunity to review progress we have made in the creation of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.

From the 2 - 4 December 2010 ANC councillors, mayors, premiers, REC and BEC delegates are meeting in Gallagher Estate in a Summit on Provincial and Local Government. The National General Council directed us to do the following:

To Provincial and Local Government as resolved by the 52nd National Conference. The convening of this is part of implementing both the 52nd National Conference and the NGC resolutions.
The Municipal Systems Administration Bill and all key legislations affecting local government must be presented to the summit.
The summit be held within three months from the NGC.

This directive by the NGC is talking to one fundamental principle that the work of the government departments must be guided by ANC policies. The NEC, through its NEC sub-committees has the responsibility of monitoring the work of departments falling within the scope of the sub-committee concerned.

The debate on the provinces is an attempt to assess whether some of the compromises made during the negotiations should not be reviewed. The ANC never envisaged provincially based government. The policy of the movement has always envisaged a unitary government with a strong local government sphere that would be strong in the implementation of policies and programmes.

It was the insistence of other parties that led to the creation of provincial government sphere. Over the years provinces have become a very strong sphere of government with real powers. The entrenchment of power in the provincial sphere of government makes difficult and complicated to discuss the desirability of this sphere of government without tempering with what has been accepted as part of governance structures. The Premiers, MECs and the number of MPLs working in the provincial government constitute a sizeable number of cadres in the system.

This debate must therefore start off by doing a serious assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this sphere of government. We must answer the question of whether we are making positive impact on delivering services and the basic needs to our people. We must ask the question of whether the cost of running the nine provincial governments is not costly and therefore takes a big chuck of resources that would otherwise be directed at meeting the needs of our people. If we come to the conclusion that there is value in having provincial governments we must quantify such value.

We must be able to identify areas that need strengthening where the benefit is bigger than the cost. Obviously the assessment of the provincial sphere of government must talk to the thinness of the resources left for deployment at the local government sphere of government. Theoretically we say the ANC must be able to call on a minister at national or provincial level to be deployed as a mayor of a strategic municipality. Up to now this remains a principle on paper. In practice we are taking effective mayors for deployment to the provincial and national government levels. Where this principle has been applied we have evidence that the quality of local government management improves.

This question is going to confront us as we go to the local government elections. Those who have ambitions of becoming mayors will resent this discussion. Some among us are positioning themselves to takeover as mayors and MMCs in municipalities where the mayor is completing the mandatory two terms. If we discuss the possibility of deploying cadres from other spheres of government such comrades will see that as a threat.

Equally important is the retention of skills developed over the last sixteen years. As we visit the regions of the ANC we come across a number of good and effective mayors identified for removal. In such cases the provincial structures of the ANC must assist regions. We must learn that removal of an experienced cadre and experiment with a new one is a big gamble. I am one of those who believe that the mandatory two terms for Mayors and Premiers is stretching democracy too far. It is painful enough at the level of the President, but a principle that we can live with.

We are expected to discuss whether we need all the elections on same day or should we continue with the current arrangement. The current system from where I stand helps the parties continue doing political with enthusiasm. The net benefit of this is parties keeping their eyes on the ball knowing that there is a set of elections on the way.

Consolidating the election dates will save a lot of resources that are spent on the different sets of elections. It will ensure that the performance of the ANC in the various spheres of government is tested at the same time. This is a two edged sword that push the support of the ANC either ways.

We must contribute to the refinement of the local government election programme. Comrades from the Western Cape need to share experiences of the other provinces. It will be more interesting to take lessons from our Comrades in KZN who were in opposition and came out to take over the provincial government. If we follow their performance in by-elections it is clear that they will be taking over a number of municipalities in the province.

The Western Cape is still not convincing that it has set itself to corrode the social base of the DA. There is too much pre-occupation with internal fights and problems, depriving us the opportunity to grow. When we have become an underdog we have nothing to lose. We have the opportunity of fighting as if there is no tomorrow.

That is what we are expecting from our comrades in the Western Cape. We have an opportunity of increasing the number of municipalities that are directly controlled by the ANC. If we can achieve this we will be strong enough to form coalitions based on principle when we have no direct control.

We must discuss the practical implementation of the list process guidelines. It is going to be tricky and complex to implement the requirement that we test our candidates in communities we are in. We must manage the process such that it is not manipulated by opportunists, while at the same time we involve the communities in a way that we can genuinely test the acceptability or otherwise of our candidates.

We must help delegates from the provinces to be able to draft programmatic framework that talks to local issues that be compatible with the national manifesto. The national manifesto by its nature will be general in outlook. Our structures must be able to explain in details what they plan to do in the next five years. This programme must talk to what has been done and what is underway. The coming elections must not be projected as starting from scratch, but a continuation of what we are already doing.

This will require boldness in admitting where we have shortcoming but explain what we are planning to do where there are problems. We must make our movement an organisation of all times and the party of the future. We must be the representative of the aspirations and interests of the vast majority of our people.

We must preserve the traditions, culture and values that the ANC always stood for.


>> Gwede Mantashe is the ANC Secretary General. This is an edited extract of his opening address at the ANC Summit on Provincial and Local Government. This article first appeared in ANC Today, the weekly online newsletter of the African National Congress.

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