ANC summit deals with spike in service strikes

The ANC has expressed concern at the sharp spike in service delivery protests ahead of next year’s local government ­election.

In a document the party prepared for its three-day local government summit which ended yesterday, the ANC said there had been a tenfold surge in community protests over service delivery between 2004 and last year.

In 2004, only 10 such protests took place in the country but this had risen to 105 by the end of last year.

By mid-2010, according to the summit document, 83 protests had been recorded?– which suggested that they could surpass the number of protests that took place last year.

However, the ANC suggested that intra-party and intra-tripartite alliance squabbles were also to blame for the violent ­uprisings that had seen disruptions in communities.

“These protests generally speak to a breakdown in local democracy in municipalities.

Some white communities have ­established 280 ratepayers’ associations, which are paying municipal rates and ­taxes into trust accounts,” it said.

The aim of the 30-page document, which the ruling party compiled after “observations of service delivery inefficiencies in levels of government”, is to review ­provincial and local government structures ahead of the 2014 national election.

This review came just a few months ­before the third local government elections were held in the country.

“Provinces and local governments are not functioning in accordance with their original founding objectives, which is ­resulting in inefficiencies in service delivery,” the ruling party said.

Nomaindia Mfeketo, head of the ANC national executive committee’s sub-committee on local government, said the ­summit had not decided what to do about the problem of frequent protests.

There was also the problem of the high turnover of councillors after every local poll.

In 2006, an average of 67% of councillors in office were new, while in the North West only 4% of councillors were retained.

Mfeketo said it was important for the party to emphasise continuity in municipalities, as it did during last year’s general polls, to avoid the loss of skilled councillors and to avoid instability in municipalities.

The future of provinces, though, remains uncertain. Mfeketo said there was no consensus at the summit on whether the provinces should be retained, reduced or completely done away with.

“There was a strong view that definitely whatever we do, we can’t leave things as they are.

I did not hear a strong view that says the current system as we have it is working perfectly and shouldn’t be ­tampered with,” she said.

“You can’t begin to talk about strengthening local government and not talk about what the role, powers and functions of a province are.”

At the start of the conference on Thursday, Free State Premier Ace Magashule launched a scathing attack on the municipal demarcation board and told delegates that the board was pitting ANC members against each other.

In some instances, Magashule said, the dermacation drew boundaries in such a way that it retained apartheid development patterns.

“Do away with the dermacation board,” he said to loud applause from the delegates at the summit.

“Are they supporting the opposition?” he asked, before saying the manner in which the board drew municipal boundaries was perpetuating apartheid development, where poor councils continued to suffer.

Other ANC leaders who attended the meeting, however, disagreed with ­Magashule.

“Who is going to do the job if you scrap the demarcation board?” one leader asked.

Another said the dermacation board should remain, but not draw up new boundaries every five years.

“This is naturally a highly emotive and contentious subject as there are substantial vested interests and perspectives that need to be taken cognisance of,” the document stated.

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