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Address by ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Northern Cape Local Government Elections Summit; Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre, Kimberley

16 September 2015

Programme Director, Cde Kenny Mmoiemang,
ANC Provincial Chairperson, Cde John Block,
ANC Provincial Secretary, Cde Zamani Saul,
Members of the ANC NEC,
Members of Provincial Executive Committee,
Members Regional Executive Committees,
Leadership of our Alliance partners,
Leadership of the Mass Democratic Movement structures,
Comrades,

It an honour to address this crucial summit of the ANC in the Northern Cape as it deepens its efforts to improve the efficiency, capacity and impact of local government.

Local government is at the coalface of the work that we collectively undertake as servants of our people.

Local government and communities face major challenges.

We need to reduce unemployment, increase access to better quality basic services, overcome the legacy of apartheid spatial development, strengthen community participation, and build effective, accountable and clean local government.

Local government is the barometer of our success in the implementation of our programmes and policies.

Local government is where lives are changed for the better.

At this moment in our history, we must remain resolute, focused and determined to marshal the whole of South Africa behind our vision of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.

To continue making progress towards such a future we need an economy that creates more jobs, decent work and sustainable livelihoods.

We need better quality local public services that are accessible to all.

We need to create integrated communities that are safe and cohesive.

We must strengthen local participation.

We must build structures that are effective, accountable and clean.

There is still much more that needs to be done.

We should follow the lead of Sol Plaatje, the first ANC Secretary General, who lived and worked in this city of Kimberley.

The visionary Plaatje would have called on us, as he named his newspaper, Tsala ea Batho, to be friends of our people.

While others make noise, our people know that the ANC remains the only tried and tested national liberation movement that continues to embody the promise of ending poverty and unemployment.

But we cannot take for granted the support of the people in this province or elsewhere.

We must earn their confidence and win their support through exemplary work in our organisation and in our local government structures.

We must earn that confidence through our vision for how specific municipalities will develop in the years to come.

Every municipality must have its Vision 2030 - a clear view of how people`s lives will change in places under ANC leadership.

We now have nearly two decades experience of democratic local government.

We have achieved much.

From the disarray of the apartheid local government regime, we have forged a coherent local government framework that is appropriate to South Africa`s conditions and developmental needs.

In many cases, we had to establish institutions and systems from scratch.

We have transformed discredited, corrupt local structures of racial control into accountable, democratic and integrated municipalities.

We have made tremendous progress in delivering water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal to millions of people.

Across the country, we have built roads, parks, community centres, clinics, public transport nodes and many other forms of social infrastructure.

But there are still areas of great concern.

In developing the Back to Basics approach, the Department of Cooperative Governance identified a number of challenges.

It is worth recalling some of these challenges:

"Institutional incapacity and widespread poverty have undermined the sustainability of the local government project, leading in some instances to a catastrophic breakdown in services.

"The viability of certain municipalities is a key concern. The low rate of collection of revenue continues to undermine the ability of municipalities to deliver services to communities.

"Our municipalities also need to be driven by appropriately skilled personnel and their correct placement.

"Slow or inadequate responses to service delivery challenges are in turn linked to the breakdown of trust in the institutions and councillors by communities.

"Social distance by our public representatives is a major cause for concern. This reflects inadequate public participation and the functionality of ward councillors and committees."

These are some of the challenges that we are meeting here to address.

We need to get the basics right.

As a starting point, we need to ensure that every municipality in the country - and particularly every municipality led by the ANC - demonstrates the most essential features of an effective local council.

In framing our `Back to Basics` approach, we say we expect municipalities to:

  • Put people and their concerns first and ensure constant contact with communities through effective public participation platforms.
  • Create conditions for decent living by consistently delivering municipal services to the right quality and standard.
  • Be well governed and demonstrate good governance and administration - cut wastage, spend public funds prudently, hire competent staff, ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Ensure sound financial management and accounting, and prudently manage resources so as to sustainably deliver services and bring development to communities.
  • Build and maintain sound institutional and administrative capabilities administered and managed by dedicated and skilled personnel at all levels.

All spheres of government have taken up this challenge.

Working together, we are implementing the Back to Basic approach across the country.

This Summit needs to tell us how well this work is progressing in the Northern Cape, and to agree on measures to ensure that it achieves better results, faster.

Importantly, this Summit needs to provide the ANC with a clear programme of local government action in the Northern Cape.

Comrades,

As we work to implement our local government programme, we need to be wary of complacency.

We need to be alert to some of the negative tendencies that can arise in a governing party.

The worst manifestations of this phenomenon include patronage, careerism, opportunism, ill-discipline and institutionalised factionalism.

We must make bold to act against such tendencies.

Our history has taught us that the most effective way to defeat such tendencies is through the active involvement of the masses in programmes of change.

The people are at the centre of the society we seek to build.

We must treasure, preserve and deepen our proud traditions of close and consistent engagement with our people.

They need to own the programme of social transformation.

That is why when we contest local government elections, we do not merely seek office - we seek a mandate.

We seek a decisive mandate representing the broadest cross-section of our communities, so that we can say with confidence that our government belongs to its people.

As we undertake this task, and as we prepare for next year's local government elections, we recognise that the movement has been subjected to sustained attacks from opposition parties, commentators and some within the media.

The ANC is not averse to criticism where it is honest and well-founded.

We are certainly not above criticism.

But much of the venomous criticism is levelled at the ANC with the sole intention of undermining the legitimate authority of the ANC arising from a popular mandate.

We must not leave the field of public discourse to our detractors.

The ANC must continue to live among the people.

Our branches and local leaders must attend to the day-to-day issues that affect our people.

It must continue to engage in political work among the people.

We are still engaged in a political struggle between those who would reverse the gains of our democracy and those who seek the fundamental transformation of our society.

We are engaged in a struggle between those who seek power as an end in itself and those who seek power as a means to improving the lives of our people.

We are engaged in a struggle between the forces of reaction and the forces of progress.

We therefore have to work hard to ensure that the ANC connects with and remains attractive to the people even in the face of hostile opinion from our detractors.

Comrades,

We will soon be holding local government elections.

This is an important event for the development of democracy in our country.

It is also an important event for the ANC.

In many of our branches, the only organisational activity that takes place is the ritualistic election of branch leadership and nominations for higher structures and places on election lists.

A great many of our branches have no political programme in which the membership engages with the community.

This means that the forthcoming election campaign is as much about building the organisation as it is about winning votes.

We must emerge from this election not only with a decisive mandate to govern our wards, but also with an organisation that is stronger, united and better capable of leading society.

We approach the 2016 local government elections in the same way that we have approached every election since 1994.

We do not seek office merely for its own sake.

We seek office so that we may lead the process of fundamental economic and social transformation.

We measure success not merely by the number of seats we win, but by the quality of the change we can bring about in people`s lives.

Victory at the ballot box is nothing compared with the daily victories we must achieve in bringing quality services and decent infrastructure to every home in every street in this country.

As we follow in the footsteps of the giants of our struggle like Sol Plaatje, ZK Matthews, Frances Baard and Mittah Seperepere, we must recognise that our sole purpose is to serve the people.

This Summit shows that we are serious in our determination to fulfil that purpose.

I am confident that we will emerge from this Summit more determined, better equipped and more capable of using local government to build a better life for all the people of the Northern Cape.

I thank you.