President redeploys the cadre bill

2011-05-14 15:26

Under immense pressure from his trade union partners, President Jacob Zuma has killed the controversial Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, or cadre deployment bill.

Zuma confirmed to City Press that the bill would not pass though the National Council of Provinces before May 18.

The bill was aimed at ending cadre deployment at local government level to ensure that skills and not political connectivity determined who got top municipal posts.

Instead, it would be debated further to deal with “issues” raised by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) in the recent meeting which averted their proposed municipal strike.

The national strike was scheduled to start on Friday and would have interfered with the elections.

A meeting of the top leadership of the ANC and Samwu last week agreed that the bill should not be passed until two contentious issues – limiting cadre deployment and the unfettered powers it gives to the local government minister to be consulted on collective decisions – had been resolved.

Samwu secretary Mthandeki Nhlapo said his union objected to the bill because it infringed on “fundamental right to association” and because it gave the relevant minister unfettered powers to intervene in local government.

“Such a limitation runs the risk of eroding what we fought for and obtained in 1994. We cannot agree with that. We believe the situation is a national problem. We regard it as a political challenge that must be dealt with politically,” Nhlapo said.

He said the power the bill bestowed on the minister could create instability as it meant that the minister could veto collective bargaining agreements if not happy with the outcomes.

Zuma said it would not be “prudent” to ram the bill through in its present form without first addressing Samwu’s concerns.

“There are issues which have been raised about the bill. Democracy is good as one listens to other people’s views. It is important that these issues that have been raised must be looked at before we finalise the bill,’’ Zuma said.

The bill has already gone through the National Assembly but is still before the National Council of Provinces for ratification. Zuma said there would be further discussion – and possible amendments – before the council signed off on the controversial law.

Zuma said: “I think there is a window of opportunity that could be utilised by Samwu in terms of the issues they are raising. If there is agreement on these issues then something could be done. I think that to delay it a little bit to allow the issues to be looked at is the most logical thing we can do.”

However, Zuma seemed to contradict this position when he addressed professionals and representatives of minorities in Sandton on Friday night.

He told the gathering he had decided that all senior managers who work in local government “must be professionals who do not hold party political office”.

“This does not mean that we are denying a person the right to support a political party. But we are saying that, for example, a municipal manager should not be the chair or secretary of a province, region or branch of the ANC.

“We are trying to address an issue that from time to time comes back to the ANC if there are things that are wrong in municipalities. You need to separate decisions that are political and decisions that are administrative so that you can have a clear local government function.

“We believe we need to do that. It’s not helping if you don’t do it. Politics at times tend to muddy the waters of what happens. And it’s difficult then to say, if the ANC is blamed, it’s not true if this is your secretary and he or she took the decision that will be criticised,” he said.

Zuma said he believed it was important to remedy the situation in local government as the ruling party was going to remain in power “for a long, long time to come”.

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