SA politics needs greater accountability, says analyst

No significant progress in fixing citizens’ social problems can be made without greater political accountability, political analyst Steve Friedman said today.

“Our fundamental development problem is a massive [gap] between those who take political decisions and those affected by those decisions,” Friedman told a seminar at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria.

“Until we address that, progress is going to be limited.”

Friedman emphasised the need for a much more “direct and appropriate” relationship between people in public offices and those who elected them.

“This is making formal democratic institutions work in a way those elected respond to those who elected them. Which in theory, it’s the way that the system is supposed to work but which is not in many countries of the world.”

The politicking at the centre of the ruling party had everything to do with this, he added.

He said that post the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane elective conference, a particular kind of accountability had developed.

This accountability was one whereby office bearers in the ruling party and in government were “painfully” aware that nobody who held office was guaranteed to retain that office at the next ANC elections.

Friedman described this as very effective pressure for accountability, which had made politicians in leadership positions in the ANC “very sensitive”.

“They are much more sensitive than Mbeki (former president Thabo Mbeki) and more sensitive than Mandela (former president Nelson Mandela).”

The battle within the ruling party led to politicians worrying about each other instead of the well-being of the people, particularly those living in informal settlements.

Senior research specialist at the ISS, Mcebisi Ndletyana, said nationalisation, as part of completing decolonisation, would not be implemented in the next couple of years.

“There will be a great deal of contestation going forward. I don’t think it (nationalisation) will happen,” said Ndletyana.

The seminar was on politics and policy after the ANC’s 2010 national general council last month.

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