PRETORIA - Yet again, as it was after the 2016 local government elections (LGEs), the ANC is in a dilemma regarding the metropolitan municipalities’ electoral results.
Hence, once again, we argue that the governing party must worry more about losing metros than who it is willing to be in coalition with.
And so, it is crucial that one pauses and introspects on why it was necessary that in 2016, the ANC should have been worried about losing elections, particularly the cities of Tshwane and Johannesburg in Gauteng, and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape.
These three metros are of political and economic value to the ANC and they represent important aspects of the Struggle against apartheid. The scars of apartheid brutality can be easily sketched in these three metros.
For that reason, they need to be preserved to avoid the erosion of the ANC’s standing in society and long-standing forewarnings that are now playing out in public as manifested by the local government elections results in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, and Nelson Mandela Bay.
These metros are the focal point for economic development at local level. Therefore, the ANC’s failure to win the hearts and minds of residents of these urban areas expresses a party in distress. The current developments are proving that the ANC has reached slippery intersections, requiring well-oiled breaks. Otherwise, its fall is inescapable.
Nevertheless, the survival choices open to the ANC all have implications, though they may pave a way for cleansing. In contrast, however, others come at a price to the values of the movement.
To be involved in any coalition talks under the current situation would be deceitful, and worse. Observing public statements of members of the ANC Top Six expressing enthusiasm for coalition talks, it is evident that the ANC did not learn from the 2016 LGE flaws. It went to the recent polls well-armed with a coalition plan, which in essence is a sign of not being keen to address the reasons behind its poor performance.
It is a fact that the current situation speaks better of party apathy than political apathy, infused by the living conditions South Africans in big metros are facing. They have attributed these conditions to the ANC’s failure to provide essential services and create job opportunities. Instead, it delivers bags full of promising messages and good plans that are not fulfilled.
Post the 2016 LGE, one would have expected the ANC to have been pragmatic and to implement successful programmes which would minimise the dent in its governance history in the municipalities.
Still, the opposite seems to be the case as all its problems are persisting unabated; hence it was not shocking when the head of the ANC’s campaign, Cde Fikile Mbalula, argued that Eskom was a contributing factor to the problems and the electorate was not pleased with the tenacious load shedding. Such assertions logically confirm that the “ANC was not ready to govern”, as narrated in Dr Khulu Mbatha’s biography.
It is time that the ANC acknowledged that losing these metros was similar to serving divorce papers on its history, and the importance attached to the urban voters.
However, it should find ways to rise to the reality that service delivery occurs at the municipal level; and the capability to lead at this level is non-negotiable.
You can navigate politics, not policies. Therefore, well qualified men and women are the way to go.
The ANC should be reminded that the cities of Tshwane and Johannesburg are too critical to be lost, and winning them outright speaks volumes.
They are the homes of Luthuli House, the party’s headquarters where the ANC president’s political programmes are planned, and the Union Buildings where the administration work of the president of the republic is undertaken.
Conversely, on top of the well-known problems, losing the City of Tshwane during the year dedicated to Charlotte Maxeke is synonymous with a short memory as Pretoria is the city where she marched to the Union Buildings in 1952, protesting against the carrying of the dompas in defiance of the injustices of the apartheid government.
To sum up, it is high time that the ANC has tough conversations preceded by decisions that will leave it in the hands of capable leaders to strategise on a straightforward way to restore the lost ground through electoral means.
Failure to do so would be catastrophic in the next local polls, and its election manifesto would be dominated by a coalition’s doctrine.
Curtis Singo is a Pretoria resident