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There’s a revolution happening at local government level as elections loom

Dozens of community-led groups threaten to unseat incumbents who sat on their hands – or worse – as local government was pushed off a cliff.
Running water remains a dream for many, including residents in Marakong Village in QwaQwa in the Free State. Image: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

The upcoming local government elections will be the most vigorously contested in decades, as local community-led groups have sprung up around the country to challenge incumbent councillors seen as enablers of the breakdown of governance across the country.

One of these is the Setsoto Service Delivery Forum (SSDF) which is fielding 17 candidates in the Eastern Free State, in an area that encompasses the rural towns of Ficksburg, Clocolan, Senekal and Marquard.

These towns are ANC strongholds that may be in danger of falling to new political forces now gusting through the province by highly energised opposition candidates with plenty of ammunition with which to club the incumbents.

Other groups have sprouted in Qwaqwa, in Maluti a Phofung Municipality in the Free State, and in Parys, also in the Free State.

‘Enough’

Selloane Lephoi, SSDF spokesperson, says the reason for the emergence of these localised rebellions is citizen fatigue at watching their municipalities being drained of funds and skills as politically-connected individuals made fortunes from corrupt deals at ratepayer expense.

“We are going to win this election,” she says without hesitation.

“We know this because we’ve been to 90% of the households in our areas, and we have been listening to what people are saying. They are fed up with corruption, at having no water, broken sewage pipes and potholes. They want basic services, and they want economic opportunities.”

The SSDF cuts across race, class and profession.

Whites and blacks have found common cause in the campaign to bring back good governance to the local municipality. The SSDF public meetings have drawn an enthusiastic crowd eager for real change. Lephoi says there’s no question the ANC is about to be routed. “What we have to watch is that the election is not stolen, and we have put plans in place to make sure this does not happen.”

She adds: “Many people in this area are fed up with politics and are not interested in voting. These are the people we are busy campaigning to get to the voting booths on the day of election.

“Voter apathy is what got us into this mess, and this has got to be stopped now.”

From disillusioned to confident

The Azanian Independent Community Movement (AICM) is contesting 12 municipalities in North West Province, and is confident of winning at least half of these, according to local government co-ordinator, Mandla Mpempe, a former ANC activist who left the party to crusade against corruption and graft at the local level.

Read:

Mpempe formed the non-profit Centre for Good Governance and Social Justice to highlight instances of corruption at local government level and has been a thorn in the side of municipal administrators in North West.

Mpempe’s activism appears to have earned him the enmity of local administrators, who denied the AICM the use of a local multi-purpose hall in Mamusa in North West, while allowing other parties free access to the same facility. The AICM was formed to fill a void left by all of the existing political parties.

“We are not prepared to stand by and let the same councillors lie and make false promises so they can get re-elected and draw a nice salary,” says Mpempe.

“People here are tired of the corruption, the arrogance of the ANC councillors who they never hear from once they are elected, and the general disregard for the rule of law and requirements of public office. So we will be fielding 120 candidates across 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 waging ideological battles forged in Moscow or Washington than in delivering practical improvements to the lives of local residents.

To this end it too cuts across race and class divides. Yet its manifesto is progressive and pro-poor, but anti-corruption and promises sweeping improvements in service delivery.

‘A manifesto like no other’

Last week the Makana Citizens Front (MCF) in the Eastern Cape launched its manifesto at Soccer City in Nelson Mandela Bay to an enthusiastic crowd.

“This is a manifesto like no other: it is the people’s voice, not a document written by a committee or an advertising agency. The opening line of the Freedom Charter is ‘The people shall govern!’ MCF’s manifesto brings that to life,” says Lungile Mxube, MCF’s coordinator.

History was made last year when the Eastern Cape’s Provincial Executive was ordered to dissolve Makana Municipality and appoint an administrator until a new council is elected.

The ANC decided to appeal the damning judgment, which ruled that it had failed to provide 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 honour their promises: Ramaphosa

The MCF was formed to restore ethical leadership to Makana, and like the other groups fighting the ANC across the country, is committed to genuine non-racialism, while deploring xenophobia and racial polarisation. Mxube tells Moneyweb that while his group has been packing out halls and venues where it is holding rallies, the ANC has struggled to raise a crowd of 20.

“We’re a non-political organisation that does not have its headquarters in Johannesburg, nor does it have a provincial headquarters.

“Our mission is simple: we want a return of basic services, we want to work with law enforcement to lock up corrupt officials and to combat violence of all kinds, we want to get rid of ghost workers who draw salaries every month, and we will investigate corrupt tenders that have been awarded over the years,” says Mxube.

“We will be contesting 13 of the 14 wards in this area, and we are absolutely confident of winning and getting rid of the incumbents who allowed this terrible situation to develop.”

The need for change

The state of local governance in SA is appalling, as the Auditor-General constantly reminds us.

Earlier this year we learned that just 27 municipalities out of 257 countrywide received clean audits. The same AG report indicates that 163 of the 257 municipalities – nearly two out of every three – are currently in financial distress.

A new report by PwC – ‘South Africa Economic Outlook, Elections 2021: Improving municipal finances to support the socio-economic recovery’ – suggests that municipalities are in real financial trouble as transfers from national to local government are falling rather than rising.

Total transfers actually reduced from R138.5 billion to R138.4 billion in 2021/2. While ‘conditional grants’ from national to local government are being increased from R40 billion to R45.5 billion, the ‘equitable share’ is being reduced from R84.5 billion to R78 billion.

Says PwC: “With municipal elections happening on November 1, political parties are campaigning with promises of improving municipal service delivery outcomes.

“However, the financial health of municipalities is a particular concern for service delivery and the country’s socioeconomic recovery over the short to medium term. Municipalities require adequate funds to provide the essential services needed to create an environment conducive for doing business and growing the economy following last year’s recession. To fund those services, they rely on a mix of transfers from the national government and their own revenue sources.”

Municipal revenue from national government (Rbn)

Source: National Treasury

This small town rebellion sometimes ends up in court, as when residents of Kgetlengrivier in North West Province were ordered by the North West High Court to take control of the area’s sewage and water works after the local municipality had run the plants into the ground and abandoned post.

In the farming town of Bethal in Mpumalanga, a local residents association recently dragged the local Govan Mbeki Municipality and Eskom to court, claiming that power cuts of up to 20 hours a day are threatening the livelihoods and health of residents.

Read:

Neil Gopal, CEO of the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa) says we should not rejoice in instances where citizens are effectively running municipalities.

“These are signs of dismal failure on the part of government which will come with its own consequences. We are of course concerned about these court judgements [such as the one involving Kgetlengrivier].

“We are in uncharted territory here,” says Gopal. “What can we expect next? For the Constitutional Court to hand over the running of the country to its citizens?”

The civic forums sprouting across the country are no longer waiting for their local governments to reform themselves, nor do they believe promises of “give us another chance and we’ll do better next time”.

They’re taking the revolution right to the door of broken municipalities, and are planning, not just to win a few seats, but to take over.

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This is impressive. They are taking their futures into their own hands. They are campaigning for service, delivery, land and jobs.

However, these civic forums should join a bigger political party, that has a national footprint. This will provide them with financial backing and support. They don’t have to do it alone.

As you say “They are campaigning for service, delivery, land and jobs”

Now all they need to do is to vote for “Service, delivery, land and jobs”

There is no such party in SA.

You are close but I think you are misconstruing their actions with your own agenda.
Nowhere is land mentioned here and the people who are undertaking these actions have no trust in ANY party or their slogans and promises. They trust their own abilities and want to make a change in THEIR communities and not be subjects of some revolutionary crackpots, corrupt cadres or even yesterdays tired old “has been” woman.
This is about ethical, effective and efficient government and the people who are undertaking it understand that jobs and economic growth will result that then opens up a whole plethora of possibilities for better societies, better education, better economic opportunity, new businesses and yes at some point the ability to build capital and own land.

Financial backing from the likes of the ANC who can’t pay it’s staff?
No the best thing is for these forums to be apolitical.

You’re not exactly too fast on the uptake are you? Suggesting a political solution to something that was caused by politicians in the first place shows what a sheep you are. Be careful that you too are not made ready for a shearing and then the eventual pot by other greedy and self serving politicians.

A KFC and ANC t shirt later and all is forgiven !!
Amandla !!!

The All Not Competent party is slowly but surely losing its grip.
The sooner it falls = the better !!!!

Be careful what you wish for. The vacuum left by the anc will be filled by a more power hungry tyrannical party whos policies are catastrophic for the country.

You will look back at the days the anc ruled as “the good old days”.

Could you be any more doom and gloom?! Believe it or not, the majority of South Africans want to live in peace, it is the media and politicians who put a lens on the doom and gloom that pays their salaries every month. And the people like you lap it up. I have been hearing that South Africa is doomed since the 80s, and my old man since the 60s. Yes, the ANC need to go and will eventually, and a more efficient party will take over. Being more efficient in comparison to cANCer is not that tough a job to do. Light a braai today, smell the rain and be more optimistic.

BlackyTalkss:

I hear you, but I doubt that the civic organisations can do worse than the ANC.

Maybe life will be much better if the ANC runs parliament and civic groups run municipalities. The current system certainly is not working. Where I live (DA ruled), we certainly have it better (sewers water and electricity work) but the council is basically a committee of DA bigwigs parachuted in.

Local parties are going to become a thing

I really doubt anyone will look back at the ANC days as the good old days. Even is a more extreme, populist party comes into power, at least it will accelerate the destruction to a final point where regrowth can begin. Even that is better than this slow demise by corruption that is the hallmark of the ANC.

No real change will come until the average citizen suffers to an unbearable point, which can clearly be read in the multiple news articles published across the many media outlets.

Thankfully, the average citizen seems to be waking up from their suffering and realising that they do not need a central controlling authority who will make choices for them. Hopefully many more will follow and we can do away with Kings; Queens; Dictators and Rulers alike.

Politics, world wide, has been hijacked by unscrupulous individuals who realised that they can make a very decent living, far above what their inherent potential could achieve, by playing politics. In the private arena they would have been housewives, ditch diggers, cattle herders, but in politics they can suddenly become an executive mayor, a minister or a president, without any professional qualification, but with the opportunity of getting their snouts in the trough. They’re not going to let that position go easily. It will take a major revolution to get rid of these leaches. It will also require an alternative to the current system where voting and democracy is a misnomer for handing over power to these idiots, who will misuse it for their own enrichment. There currently is no such system. A last thought; these independent ‘politicians’ will go the same route, because they are also low potential individuals who will also forget their morality and ethics once they take their seat at the table. This whole mess is because of something called the human condition, which needs a way different system to protect us from ourselves.

@Batman, Very Well Said.

The current form of “Democracy” is anything but democratic, it’s selection is not based on as you say “the human condition” rather it is based on popularity.

A different form of selection based on “Human Condition and Experience” is required, that would mean that voters group in neighbourhoods of 19 people and select the principal and deputy who best understands and represents them, this then is progressed across communities until national level where we will have 9 chancellor who vote and make decisions on behalf of all citizens.

No political parties means far less problems.

Currently major economies are experiencing the side effects of fake democracies, we will be experiencing higher inflation and costly living conditions. I do expect the US to be down graded by rating agencies, this will be the start of increasing of interest rates and major defaulting across the world.

Most politicians in SA are unemployable. Therefore they must fight tooth and nail to save their positions as politicians.

Our lot in Pietermaritzburg are frantically cleaning streets, fixing street lights and repainting road markings before the elections. Pity the recent strike by bin collectors let them down, though (chuckle). Kinda spoils the image.

The officials in the ANC led local governments did worse than nothing – they stole hard earned citizens money, allowed townships to steal water and electricity and did nothing to those who did not pay for utilities.

We have an ANC problem, which does need addressing in the elections.

It is very pathetic to watch the “clean up, fixit show”.

Worse than children being good to get a sweety from Mom.

The evil ones will just step up the intimidation this week to ensure the fools vote them in again.

what was once amazing and mindboggling at the same time, was to see the heroic “welcome” of ex anc president zuma by his durban / ethekwini supporters after his 2 very ill months in jail (seems now to be as fit as a fiddle) – the man directly and indirectly responsible for the worst period in this country’s history, politically economically and otherwise. just the heroic welcome tells me that we still have lots of sa citizens with no insight, that simply can’t or don’t want to see the damage that was done right under their eyes – the rest of the world is laughing at us, just another country in africa going down the drain

Johannes those are the ones that have been poisoned by loose mouthed politicians.

When these guys open their mouths some very dangerous racist stuff comes out, add a few promises of land, wealth, jobs etc and you have a very toxic mix.

@Johannes: Not simply “going down the drain”, but well embedded in the cesspool. Or as recently described, in the “Trumpian hole”.

I wish the independent movement well, although I am skeptical about their chances of success at the poles. Democracy works like it is supposed to in South Africa. Democracy allows voters to express their mindset and attitude at every election, in every city and town across the country. This is all that democracy promises, to allow people to express their mindset.

Therefore, the system is not at fault. The problem lies with the mindset rather. This explains why DA municipalities have clean audits and are able to provide services and fix roads, while 98% of ANC municipalities are catastrophic failures. It simply reflects the mindset of the majority of voters in that municipality. Therein lies the problem. In order for independent counselors to have any chance of success at service delivery, they will have to change the mindset of the voters first.

Until then, the only way to live a civilized life in an efficient municipality is to migrate to the city where the majority of voters have the proper mindset.

Any party will do except the ANC and EFF. They only care about their own welfare and not the wellbeing of the people.

Well the EFF are Certainly revolutionary or put better utterly revolting !!!

Mafia state.

These elections are depressing, choosing between the candidate parties is like choosing which means of suicide you want, the end result is pretty much certain.

Lets not overestimate the intelligence of the average South African voter. ANC and EFF will do well.

Exactly-27 years of thievery and non delivery but the sheep can be purchased for a basic income grant-or the headman ordering you to vote.

Says everything about the people of this sad land.

27+ years too late. Only woke up and realised the filth and grime now?

Pain is the best teacher !!!

It will be great for the country if the independent groups can shake the bigger parties out of their sleep, but even if the independent groups win a municipality, they are still set up to fail. The ANC has stocked the municipalities with their useless cadres and they have made labour laws which make it impossible to get rid of them. Yes, you need good councillors, but the lack of skilled and hard working officials is the main reason for the failure of most municipalities. It will be a long and uphill battle for any party who take over an ANC council.

I’ve been saying this and thinking this for years – the only way to save SA is for local communities to win local elections. We’ve seen the benefits in Cape Town where a very competent (not perfect) party, in this case the DA runs the City and does so very well. Then take away the Provinces as and when you can, again the WC is an excellent example. The WC is financially significantly more prosperous and in general more harmonious and safer. Hope the rural and urban poor will wake up to the lie that is the ANC and truly liberate themselves from the cadre’s vampirism and outright evil …

Well i am one of those that will not be voting
A waste of time

We just need a million or so more like you and then we really are stuffed….actually wait.. thats exactly what has been happening for the last 20 or so years, people who can make a difference decide not to.
Why educated people dont understand that EVERY VOTE COUNTS is beyond me.
Please reconsider.

Then you are effectively voting for the ANC and a continuation of the current decline in service delivery, corruption …. It is a public holiday, use it to add your voice to those who are trying to save the country from the destruction caused by the ANC. Of course, if you are an ANC or EFF supporter then don’t bother.

It’ because of idiots like you that we are sitting in this situation…

Don’t care about the DA’s warning to not support small/independent parties. Had enough of paying for sub-standard/no-service and/or for those that never pay!

Meanwhile in Mannenberg on the Cape Flats, a report from a resident to a friend, that the EFF promised voters houses. No! They said, we’ve heard that before! Where are you going to build houses? We’re not going to build they said, “you will have the white people’s houses” … instant jubilation.

Sigh … the usual story.

Thanks for the article. This will be interesting. Are people at the local level just fed up with parties on a national level? This will change things as it will expose the patronich network

End of comments.

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