Choosing a candidate

2009-12-14 00:00

ON Friday, the Democratic Alliance placed adverts in local newspapers, advertising for candidates for the 2011 local government elections. According to the advert, the party wants to provide supporters with the best possible public representatives. Hopeful candidates will, of course, have to subscribe to the DA vision and there is no guarantee of selection. Applicants will have to submit CVs and have a proven track record of leadership. They will then have to submit to the party’s rigorous internal selection process.

This advert reminded me of the plight of Aggrey Mandla, perhaps because his story relates to the last local government election in 2005. Mandla is from Eastwood and at first it was difficult to understand his story. This is because he has been repeating it so often over the past five years that he tends to leave out essential details. There is also the fact that he is extremely frustrated and his frustration boils through in relating his tale of woe. Mandla was on the ward committee of the late councillor Wally Adams. With the elections looming, he went on a membership drive to recruit members to the ANC so that they could choose a candidate in the 2005 elections. He duly filled in over 20 membership forms, collected R12 from each person and deposited the money into the ANC account. He diligently kept the proof of payment from the bank as well as copies of all the membership forms that were comple­ted. Weeks went by and no membership cards were forthcoming. He made inquiries and was told that the machine that produces the cards was broken. Shortly afterwards, at least two people received their cards and no one else.

In the meantime, a new candidate was chosen to be the councillor in the ward and Adams was left out, much to the disappointment of his supporters. The Witness carried stories at the time of the anger of the Eastwood community, who felt they were deliberately sidelined because the selection meeting was held in the informal settlement of Tamboville and not in the Eastwood Community Hall as was previously the practice. The community also complained that they were not informed about the meeting. They viewed the entire process as that of a select group orchestrating the entire process so that they could get a particular candidate in, even though the person was hardly known by the larger community and had no track record of community involvement.

Such was the perception at the time and unfortunately it remains, because five years on none of the people who applied for ANC membership cards received them. Mandla claims to have spoken to the new councillor without success. Since then, people have come knocking at his door demanding their R12 and accusing him of stealing their money. Mandla has visited the ANC offices over the years without success. He says he has spoken to so many different people and his words fall on deaf ears. He described what happened as the basest form of manipulation. “If you want to keep people out of the selection process and get a candidate who will represent narrow interests, then all you have to do is just submit the membership of your candidate’s supporters,” he said.

Come 2011, Mandla and a group of diehard ANC members in Eastwood are determined to have their say on who will be their representative in the local government election. “We paid our mo­ney, we have the proof, the party must give us our membership cards,” he says. On a personal le­vel, Mandla wants his good name restored. He says he is tired of people accosting him and accusing him of “eating their money”.

Both Mandla’s story and the DA advert are indicators that the stakes are going to be high in the forthcoming local government election. Choice of councillors will be key and communities are going to want candidates whom they know and who will represent their interests.

The ANC recognises this. The party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, has said that perfor­mance assessment of councillors will inform the selection of candidates for the 2011 local government elections

Mantsashe has also acknow­ledged that branches of the ANC are important in playing a political oversight role and in calling public meetings. Yet, how can this happen when branches seem in disarray? When for Mandla and potential ANC members of Eastwood, the simple act of getting a party membership card is proving so difficult? Residents may well question when last the councillor in their area held a public meeting. It seems that, in the run-up to the 2011 elections, the ANC certainly has its work cut out and the first step is getting its branches in order.

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