Centres of power

2009-05-05 00:00

WHEN the South African Constitution was being drawn up, the negotiators agreed on a purely proportional representation electoral system. After 15 years’ experience, many would now regard this as a major flaw in the Constitution in that it gives inordinate power to the party bosses to “deploy” individuals as they think fit. In the case of the ANC as the majority party, the power brokers are the members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and its inner core, the National Working Group.

That power has most recently been used in the appointment of the premiers of the eight provinces in which the ANC has an electoral majority. And while KwaZulu-Natal is not unhappy about the announcement that Zweli Mkhize is to become the premier of this region, other provinces are unhappy with the NEC’s decrees. In Gauteng, the ANC Youth League has openly voiced its unhappiness with the choice of Housing MEC Nomvula Mokonyane over serving premier Paul Mashatile, while the ANC in the Northern Cape has complained about the nomination of Bo-Kaap Mayor Hazel Jenkins over provincial chairman John Block.

Clearly these two appointments have been in accordance with the ANC’s gender imperatives. But obviously not all its members are on board on this, and one can only wonder whether the appointments have been made simply to put more women into these positions, irrespective of their qualifications, experience or suitability. What is bound to happen is that the two-centres-of-power dynamic will come into play as it did at national level in the months after Polokwane when Thabo Mbeki remained president of the land despite having been ousted as president of the ANC. And that holy grail, “delivery”, will suffer.

ANC president Jacob Zuma attempted to quell opposition to the appointments at the weekend. What he cannot quell is the basic democratic principle that local and provincial authorities should be led by the choices of their members and not have individuals foisted on them from on high by some remote centralised body.

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