The district based service delivery model for development, which is currently being piloted, will be rolled out across the country with a view to drive all development initiatives through district mapping and implementation…a crucial question is when implemented, what kind of an organisation and leadership are available in communities as enablers? Are ANC branches vibrant and united to handle this form of intergovernmental planning, budgeting and delivery since local leadership of ANC branches is and has to be found directly or indirectly involved with municipal governance?
The Local Government Election in 2016 and the National Elections in 2019 have confirmed two important dynamics in South Africa’s evolving democracy and conduct of elections. The first dynamic is the entrance of personalities as the face of political parties during campaigns even though party loyalty is still strong. Sentiment is gradually fading away and voters now use power of their vote to reward and punish parties in the elections.
Secondly, it confirmed correctness of tried and tested practice of relying on strong organisational base that is rooted in functional ANC branches, a need for organisational renewal and positioning that is responsive to exigencies of dawning electoral era, as well as election machinery that is deeply entrenched in communities for an intensive direct voter contact as a means to deliver key campaign messages.
ANC branches that are vibrant, stronger and rooted in communities must be occupied with their primary vanguard role in community life and lead communities in advancing local development and service delivery as well as contribute to building National Democratic Society based on the values of non-racialism and non-sexism.
The ANC got a reduced majority largely due to self-inflicted weaknesses of disunity, factionalism, confused electoral messages, a limping organisation as well as a disjointed election machinery. This was further complicated by an incoherent plan and strategy to come back from that setback, particularly to attract and win back middle class including disaffected minority groups.
The urgent tasks now are to organise ourselves better. To be seen building a true non-racial movement that is responsive to people’s needs and find presence in every community. The lived experiences of the voters in general is that ANC remains the organisation that is capable and experienced to transform governance and society while also delivering services to our people.
Local government elections in 2021 is our next litmus test of how much progress we have achieved in the unity and renewal efforts and the extent to which people do “trust” us again with electoral power. Recent bi-elections provide a glimmer of hope since the ANC wins bi-elections, including wards that belonged to the opposition. The ANC Government must prioritise local government. It must capacitate and strengthen it to be in a better as well as effective position to drive change to improve the quality of life our people in various communities across South Africa.
Organisational renewal must be linked with a strong organisation building effort and presence that is geared towards providing stronger as well as credible leadership at local level in line with traditional loyalty to parties and emerging role of personalities or leadership in elections.
In the last 25 years, the ANC has produced policies that cut across all spheres of government that have been decrypted into law, regulations and institutions which are designed to serve the needs and aspirations of our people. However, political and governance challenges continues and there seem to be widening crevice between institutions of governance and their ability to meet or deliver on the needs of communities.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, of 1996 in Section 152, details local government objective as: to provide democratic and accountable government of local communities; to ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner; to promote social and economic development; to promote a safe and healthy environment; and to encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations in the matters of local government.
In support for and of local government sphere, there were several initiatives by government over the last 19 years to make municipalities agencies of transformation and service delivery. These range from the Local Government Strategic Agenda; Integrated Development Planning support programmes; grants; LED strategies and support; Project Consolidate; and donor supported programmes such as the Consolidated Municipal Transformation Programme.
However, despite all these provisions and support programmes, the 2009 overview report of the state of local government in South Africa revealed a disappointing collection of failures which are attributable to structural, governance and capacity causes. The report grouped service delivery and governance problems as priority areas consistent with government’s developmental challenges.
These failures include the following: service delivery backlogs; poor communication and relationships with communities; problems with political/administrative interface; corruption and fraud; poor financial management; service delivery protests; weak civil society formations; intra- and inter-political party issues affecting governance and delivery; and inadequate municipal capacity due to lack of skills.
The report pointed out that too many of South Africa’s municipalities are in distress and that negative practices and fault lines have become deeply rooted largely in governance. Public dissatisfaction and mass protests in the local government sphere continue and these protests devour public capability and have therefore become wasteful. Local authorities have been reactionary and hardly successful at addressing the core grievances of communities.
Ward and proportional representative councillors are significantly swarmed in resolution processes and offices. Communities argue that their grievances are not attended. They consequently resort to mass protests that are accompanied by violence and destruction as an essential tactic to gain attention from highest authorities.
The most concerning development of violent protests is that they usually lack effective and coherent organisation, strategic direction and leadership.
The district based service delivery model for development, which is currently being piloted, will be rolled out across the country with a view to drive all development initiatives through district mapping and implementation. The new model will require that national budgets and programmes are spatially referenced across the 44 districts and eight metros from the 2020/21 budget cycle. Correspondingly, a similar realignment of provincial government budgets and programmes will take place.
The model will allow for more specific service delivery and budget considerations at a district-level to pursue development through single, integrated plans per district. One district, one plan – that will outline the role of each sphere of government as well as the role of communities and civil society sectors in each district.
The objective of this shift in planning is to narrow the distance between citizens and to engender active participation by citizens in development, and enable long-term planning as well as responses to issues. This particular intervention will eliminate historical challenges that have been unearthed by the 2009 local government review, other previous reports, and latest National Treasury and COGTA reports.
The model will in the main, address challenges of insufficient cash coverage to fund municipal operations. This indicates failure of over 124 municipalities to meet prudent standards, struggles to understand and action the critical concept that budgeting for surpluses is necessary to avoid cash and liquidity problems, overspending of operating budgets and underspending of capital budgets.
Accordingly, a crucial question is when implemented, what kind of an organisation and leadership are available in communities as enablers? Are ANC branches vibrant and united to handle this form of intergovernmental planning, budgeting and delivery since local leadership of ANC branches is and has to be found directly or indirectly involved with municipal governance?
The ANC renewal has to be seen within this context. Renewal effort is not done for its own sake and in a vacuum. It is strategically linked to areas of ANC’s existence, operation and influence.
In the unfolding effort of organisational renewal, ANC should collectively reflect on how to produce programmes and cadreship that is politically and technically ready for deployment that will comprehend district based service delivery model of development work. It must place governance in general, and municipalities in particular, on a sustainable as well as service delivery oriented approach that is responsive and comply with its mandate.
Organisational renewal would be necessary firstly to position the ANC to be ready for a new model of service delivery that is introduced. Secondly, it has to respond comprehensively to challenges and criticism highlighted in the previous reports generated about governance. Thirdly, through organisational renewal there’ll be need to learn from listening to people during door to door campaigns on shortcomings in service delivery and intra-fights.
To this end, the most appropriate starting point in our reflections and connection between the organisational weaknesses and the present day governance challenges can be extrapolated from the wisdom, experience and the timeless characterisation by former Secretary General of the ANC, Walter Sisulu who stated:-
“Every organisation engaged in national liberation constantly has to isolate, analyse and search for solutions crucial both to its continued existence and growth, and to the success of the struggle as a whole.
Stripped to its bare essentials the national liberation struggle reduces itself to a struggle for political power – a struggle born of irreconcilable interests…In a certain sense, the story of our struggle is a story of problems arising and problems being overcome.” (Walter Sisulu, Reflections in Prison, 1976)
To acquire and sustain state power demands a strong, agile and relevant organisation that is capable of renewing itself to overcome contending objective and subjective problems confronting it at a given period.
It is this understanding that calls for urgent and fundamental action to reverse any germination of seeds that have weakened the ANC and eroded its moral and political authority in governance/state power.
The current context which makes solutions more complex is their link to personal gain and material benefit associated with (state) power derived from being elected/ deployment into public office. Hence it becomes important to focus on developing a cadre.
The ANC in the post 1990s has grown in numbers but, it has not converted the quantity of members into quality that have been developed to be cadres that have ‘graduated’ through political education, ideological training, academic as well as technical skills. Cadres who appreciate complexities of this phase and who can be at the cutting edge of the on-going struggle and fundamental political, social and economic transformation of our country.
It is in this context and spirit that the establishment and rollout of the ANC’s comprehensive political school system through OR Tambo School of Leadership is so important at this time in the life of the ANC and its challenges.
The OR Tambo School of Leadership has to assist the ANC with its current challenges. It should develop a coherent as well as specific focus on the recruitment, political and ideological training of students and young intellectuals.
The one singular responsibility we all have is to ensure that the ANC must not only remain a People’s movement, but also a People’s Choice and Agent for change whose character is supposed to be an embodiment of a “pure” and “uncaptured” organisation.
The Strategy and Tactics document correctly notes that our gains can often be over shadowed by persistent and stubborn socio-economic legacy of colonialism of a special type and Apartheid that expresses itself through the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequalities.
The pace and depth of socio-economic change driven by the ANC is often determined by three inter-related factors: a) the policy environment; b) institutional capacity and resources of the democratic state; and c) the purposefulness and cohesion of the governing party’.
ANC’s organisational renewal thesis identified three main shortcomings that have persisted in the ANC post-1994.
Firstly, due to pre- occupation with managing internal conflicts, the movement has not been mitigating the seven dangers that any governing party has to cope with when assuming office and the benefits that comes with it:
- The danger of social distance and isolation of the party from the masses through gate keeping and branches that have been weakened in their role;
- The danger of state bureaucratism and demobilisation of the masses which wittingly and unwittingly renders the role of and interest in matter of governance useless through creation of State to be everything that plays all the roles in society. Even those roles that are supposed to be played by NGOs, private capital/business and other stakeholders;
- The danger of corruption and neo-patrimonialism; that has elevated self-enrichment, cronyism, patronage politics and loyalty to leader(s) and not to the ANC, conspicuous consumption and glamour that created exclusivity on social/political circles for ANC which build arrogance in our leaders;
- The danger of institutionalized factionalism, ill-discipline and disunity fuelled and inspired by the battles over the control of state power and resources manifested through tenders and other opportunities; that has created internal democratic processes for election of leadership or nomination for MPs, MPL or Councillorship to become a matter of life and death;
- The danger of using state institutions to settle inner-party differences; and involve use of state machinery or weakened of organs of state as well as manipulation of governance administration for factional/ subjective deployment. Use administrative processes to subject internal opponents to perpetual silence or face being fired from their municipal/government jobs/ deployment for just having view(s) different from a dominant faction in power.
- The danger of neglecting cadre policy; where the factional head(s) derived benefit and pleasure from operating within weak leadership collectives and structures in which they become the “reality definer” and appear well rounded and grounded.
- The danger of lack of capacity and capability to formulate local policies and plans as well as weak implementation of policies to improve the standard of living of the masses. This manifests itself in the administration, through failure by the ANC leadership itself to deploy or even ignore capable and skilled officials and cadres of the movement.
Secondly, the political life of the organisation revolves around permanent internal strife and factional battles for power. This is a silent retreat from the mass line into palace politics of factionalism and perpetual in-fighting. The internal strife revolves around contestation for power and state resources, rather than political or ideological differences, not even on how to implement the policies of the movement.
This situation has shifted the focus of cadres and members of the movement away from community interests, societal concerns and people’s aspirations. These circumstances have produced a new type of ANC leader and member. These new tendencies instil in new members and breeds a sense or belief that ill-discipline, divisions, factionalism and infighting are normal practices and necessary forms of political survival and self-preservation in the ANC elective office.
Thirdly, as an objective factor, the organisational capabilities is weakened – in the form of structures, systems and processes – which do not match the tasks and demands of the current phase of the revolution.
Two scenarios have emerged in which subjectively seasoned and experienced members and cadres are outmanoeuvred or elbowed out of positions/ elective office by new members and opportunists/ careerists. Or they blatantly just sit back as a spectator of the revolution with a sense of entitlement to positions.
Second scenario is the objective and often dangerous mistaken belief by seasoned and experienced cadres and members who assume that we have achieved our formal political freedom and as such opt for self-demobilisation. As a result of this development in the revolution, they have unwittingly dropped their revolutionary guards and leave the revolution in the hands of newly recruited and inexperienced members who can be easily manipulated.
This fundamental vacuum created in the movement and the ANC in particular, as a consequence of mass migration into other deployments or self-demobilisation get exploited by even careerists. This reality creates desperation for these careerists who now resorts to factional tendencies that manipulates ANC processes and engage in factionalism.
The weak state of ANC branches results in the organisation incapable of and incapacitated to engage even basic policy or IDP processes, bringing life and vibrancy into the programmes of Ward/ Clinic/ Health Committees/ Hospital Boards/ CPFs and SGBs.
Although ANC has a presence of progressive policies and cadres in virtually all pillars of transformation, we are not deliberately building appropriate capabilities to mobilise, engage and lead the motive and progressive forces in these pillars and structures to draw the linkages between pillar and sectoral processes and the overall national objective.
In consideration of declining electoral support, back to basics is crucial and organisational renewal becomes critical precondition for successfully winning back, not only confidence of the masses of our people to their ANC, but also winning lost municipalities.
The ANC has gone into a long period of organisational stagnation in which branches are only built for the purposes of conferences and the agenda of factions. This period of stagnation and in-fighting continue to be characterised by deep divisions, gate keeping, factionalism, weak cadre policy, patronage, rank opportunism and so on.
ANC needs to elect leadership that is diversified to reflect South African society in its diversity. Leadership that is reflective of multi class and fully embrace the broad church character the ANC and inter-generational mix and succession.
These are good basis and starting point going forward that will inspire confidence to ANC members, supporters as well as society in general. Otherwise commitments of the Freedom Charter will ring hollow and be a pipe dream for majority of South Africans. ANC will not to win back minority group and black middle class as well as arrest its decline.
The real possibility of increasing our seats in opposition benches looms large and remains the greatest nightmare of our generation which poses a real danger to the revolution. Therefore, delivery of social justice and economic freedom will be delayed by a generation or even forever.
ANC needs to put in place measures and take urgent steps to address our weaknesses and continue to draw lessons from our history. It must be bold enough to imagine new solutions and new ideas that will endure and survive future storms.