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Didiza: It's not about us, but how we work with communities

2016-06-24 08:48

Johannesburg - Thoko Didiza was dressed in a simple black dress suit, the kind that does not attract attention. Still, she was the reason for the media scrum, and cameras flashed every time she moved, or when her name was mentioned at a press conference called by the ANC's Gauteng leadership to announce the province's 12 mayoral candidates on Thursday.

It is quite a spectacular comeback to life as a public representative for the former minister, who resigned from Cabinet in 2008 after former president Thabo Mbeki was sacked.

She returned to the ANC’s national executive committee in 2012 and to Parliament in 2014, where she served as House chairperson, but it was only when her nomination as ANC candidate for Tshwane mayor sparked massive violence and looting in the city that South Africa really sat up and listened.

- Elections Map: Previous Tshwane results 

On Thursday she spoke out for the first time since her nomination earlier in the week, and sat down for a one-on-one interview with News24. The 51-year-old admitted the local government sphere was a new “challenge” for her, but there are lessons she learnt from her previous leadership positions that will stand her in good stead.

“The experience I bring in terms of leadership it is about being able to work and build the team of the people with whom I will work as members of the executive council but also the administration,” she said.

“It’s being able to ensure that our administrative processes support our policy objectives, and one has been able to do that working in the sphere of national government. In 1994, for instance, working as a deputy minister [of agriculture and land reform] with Kraai van Niekerk one of our challenges during the first five years was how do we integrate the different agricultural departments that were there across South Africa and the former homelands system, ensuring that you have an effective administration that is coherent and united, focused on the same goal.

“In the city obviously one of the things would be to ensure that one is able to give leadership, working with the council to ensure that those objectives as identified in the Integrated Development Plan are actually implemented. It is also about clean governance, to ensure that the manner in which we spend the resources that have been voted for by council, we do so and in a more efficient way.

“Issues of accountability are also important. At the local government sphere they are more important because it is not only accounting to council, but working with local councillors in accounting to communities about the work that has been done by the council.”


And if she had to say something about former president Thabo Mbeki, under whom she served as a minister and spent most of her career in formal politics?

Didiza in a measured way said she would like to postpone talk about this to a different time, because right now she preferred to focus on Tshwane. If her campaign programme allowed, however, she said she might go to the launch of a new book about him on Friday night, called “The Thabo Mbeki I Know”.

She spoke a bit about the past nonetheless.

“In the ANC I have grown among different leaders from who I have learnt.”

These include Jeff Radebe, Sibusiso Ndebele, Mike Mabuyankulu and Zihle Sikalala (all in KwaZulu-Natal).

“I have worked with the women’s organisation under the leadership of women like Florence Mkhize. I was part of the women’s movement when we tried to invite the Federation of South African Women [prior to 1994].

“I have worked with women around the country, but I’ve also worked with comrade [Nelson] Mandela when I was serving as the deputy minister under his leadership. I have worked with comrade Mbeki and comrade [President Jacob] Zuma when one was the president and one was the deputy president.


“So out of all those leaders of the ANC, one of the things that one can say we learnt and grew, was selflessness, putting our people first, ensuring that in serving our people we do so honestly and diligently. And it’s not about us but it’s about those who have given us a mandate to execute the responsibilities in government.”

Didiza said she started her political career before the dawn of democracy.

“I did that work while I was not in government, as all of us were not there prior to 1994. Because through our activism in ensuring that we liberate, in ensuring that the concerns of women during the transition were brought into a constitutional framework, it was about serving people, because that time we were not serving in government but it was about being conscious about the struggles of the people and what they would want to see in the future.

“And for me when one is given an opportunity to work and serve the people of Tshwane, it is not what I do or what we do as the collective of individuals, but it is how we work with those communities to make Pretoria a better place.”

- Find everything you need to know about the 2016 Local Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections, or download the app for iOS and Android.

Read more on: anc  |  thoko didiza  |  pretoria  |  local elections 2016  |  politics

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