Gone are the days of apathy.

2011-02-02 15:29

Gone are the days of apathy.

Communities are fearlessly taking politicians to task over the slow pace of service delivery.

But while community ­participation in the nomination of prospective councillors is critical, in the end, the ANC (not the community) has the ultimate say in who gets the nod.

Last Sunday, the ruling party faced disillusioned and vocal people in Katlehong when it presented its candidates for the upcoming local government elections.

The party chose this route after it emerged that it had lost votes in areas where candidates did not enjoy massive support.

A ward 59 resident, to thunderous applause, asked: “Why call the community in the first place when you (the ANC) are going to make the final decision (on councillor appointment) anyway?

What is actually our input?”

When the ANC facilitator of the ward 59 meeting shouted “Amandla!” (Power!), the crowd responded by saying: “Power is yours. We have no power.”

The chant is usually blurted out to call for order at ANC meetings, or approval from the audience.

The community made it clear that it was unhappy with the manner in which the ­ruling party has served.

The first community meeting I attended in the morning was for ward 101.

Not even a somewhat bullying facilitator, Thabang Rampalane, could dictate terms to the residents.

He failed in his attempts to eject non-ANC members from the meeting, held at the Chivirikani Primary School in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni.

Community members stood their ground, averring that it was a public meeting, not a strictly ANC meeting.

When this journalist asked hostile ANC officials why Rampalane was insisting that people who were not ANC members leave, the officials said: “You don’t look like an ANC member. Who invited you?”

A polite ANC member intervened and said the public meeting was actually open to the media.

But hostile ANC officials ordered me not to mingle with the community, so I was allocated a place to sit.

Community members near me were advised not to “speak to me or disturb me”.

Rampalane introduced the eight candidates.

After reading their CVs, he asked them four questions each.

The four standard questions were:

» What have you done for the ­community?

» What do you see as the main problem that needs to be addressed in this ­community?

» How would you strengthen the work of the council?

» What skills would you bring to the ­council?

Some candidates elicited cheers and rounds of applause with their articulate responses, while others drew jeers with their lacklustre answers.

The community was allowed to ask each candidate two questions. After the Q&A session, it was time for the residents to choose their preferred candidate.

The community shot down the idea of a secret vote, but opted for a transparent system of being grouped according to their preferred candidates.

In the end, there were four groups representing four candidates.

The screening committee did the counting.

It was when the party was to announce the outcome of the voting that Rampalane gave this journalist his marching orders.

This was after a member of a screening committee had brought it to his attention that I was a journalist.

When City Press contacted ANC leader Gwede Mantashe for comment, he agreed with Rampalane, saying: “The media must give the ANC space to conduct its internal business.

Is it possible to give the ANC space to complete its processes? Just treat the ANC like any other party,” he said.

Instead of announcing the winner, Rampalane said four candidates had been shortlisted.

Their names would now be forwarded to the party’s regional leadership.

The region will pass the names on to the party in the province, which will finalise the ANC candidate for that particular ward.

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