Former ANC president Thabo Mbeki addresses professionals and business as part of the local government election campaign of the ANC. Picture: Masi Losi Picture: Masi Losi
Former ANC president Thabo Mbeki addresses professionals and business as part of the local government election campaign of the ANC. Picture: Masi Losi Picture: Masi Losi

The ANC has tightened its criteria for mayoral selection, particularly for metros, with requirements of a tertiary qualification and leadership experience in running a public or private institution with more than 100 employees. 

The party’s leaders at local level are increasingly under scrutiny as municipalities across SA crumble under the weight of incompetence, corruption, neglect and mismanagement. 

For the first time, the ANC has set up a panel to interview potential mayoral candidates, which former president Thabo Mbeki hailed in a meeting with business and professionals in Parktown, Joburg, on Thursday night. The ANC has not named any mayoral candidates, unlike the DA. The governing party is instead using President Cyril Ramaphosa as the face of its campaign ahead of the polls on November 1.

A document which the FM has seen shows the criteria for mayors and the questions they will be asked – as well as the weighting that the questions on ethics and experience will carry – when grilled by the new panel. 

Mbeki was brutal about the calibre of ANC members, saying the party had to resort to “special measures” – where the community had to get involved – when choosing councillors because its branches were not up to the task due to the poor quality of its members.  

The ANC’s document contains criteria for mayors for municipalities across the country, as well as for members of the mayoral committees (MMCs). 

“Over the years a major challenge that we have had in local government related to governance issues, and can be traced to the capacity of the political office bearers and the people we appoint in local government administration,” the document reads. 

“We need to develop tighter criteria for the selection of the political leadership in the municipalities. We cannot continue with the free-for-all approach, as we are faced with dire social and economic issues which require a best-fit approach in selecting leaders in local government.”

According to the document, mayoral candidates for metros should have at least five years’ experience in local government or public institutions, or leadership experience at executive level in an NGO. 

“For metro mayors, the candidate must have leadership experience in a public or private sector organisation with more than 100 employees, with exposure to strategic planning, performance management and labour relations; and for non-metro, same in an organisation with at least 50 employees,” it says. 

Mayoral picks should have a “track record of discipline, no evidence of a criminal record or evidence of maladministration” against them. 

“Some of the larger metros’ budgets are equivalent to or, in some instances, larger than many JSE-listed companies. Appreciation of the local government system and complexities is therefore paramount. This sphere of government also involves the management and development of sophisticated high-value infrastructure.”

The candidate should have seven to 10 years of political and leadership experience; knowledge of budgeting, financial management and sustainability issues; and knowledge of local government legislation, particularly the Municipal Systems Act, Municipal Structures Act, Municipal Finance Management Act and Municipal Property Rates Act. 

The mayoral candidate should also be “a leader of integrity and ethics”.

“[An] honest person with integrity, high ethical standards; no criminal record; no pending charges related to corruption; honesty and integrity in decision-making and repugnance for using … office for self-enrichment, nepotism and factionalism. [They should show] exemplary leadership in abiding by the code of conduct for councillors.”

The criteria are less strict for MMCs, however – they need no tertiary education and there isn’t a stipulated period of experience required.

Mbeki bemoaned the calibre of ANC members and councillors, saying he once called the party’s provincial office in the Western Cape and the staffer who answered his call did not even recognise his name. 

“This issue [is] who are these people we elect to be councillors? Because this is going to be the political leadership in local government. What is the quality of this leadership? It’s a serious question. The ANC had to respond to this question. That’s why we have a process of getting the communities involved in selecting these candidates.  

“We must not say to the people: ‘We are asking you to elect thieves.’ We have got to say: ‘We are asking you to elect people who are leaders but responsible people,’” Mbeki said to applause. 

He turned to the ANC’s efforts at renewal, which he described as a response to a “very serious problem” in the party.

“Over the years, the quality of the membership of the ANC has degenerated and it is a problem which the ANC leadership has recognised for a very long time that this leadership is changing,” he said. He tracked the first mention of the decline of the ANC’s membership all the way back to 1997, identified by then president Nelson Mandela. 

The same problem was described at the ANC’s conference in 2017. 

“The problem has been how do you deal with that?” he said. 

“The problem, of course, is what do you do? Because a Thabo Mbeki will come and say: ‘I love the ANC’ … and possibly recite the entirety of the Freedom Charter and say: “I want to be ANC.” So they join and in the meantime they have another agenda,” he said. 

He said the renewal process was critical and the party could not have the membership that it has now.

“That is why the ANC introduced these extraordinary measures to say: ‘Rather than rely on the branches, let’s go to the people” … as I say, the national conference said there has to be renewal; it actually says if it doesn’t happen the ANC is dead. How do you entrust an organisation like that to produce the councillors we want? You can’t.”

He said renewal would be painful because “there are people who are very good at toyi-toying, singing ANC songs, saying ‘Viva’ 20,000 times but are not ANC”.

“The problem with that is it’s not just an ANC problem, it becomes a national problem because the ANC, with its weight and its size, is the governing party – if the governing party misbehaves, it has a very negative impact on the country.

“In a sense I am saying today, the ANC is too big to fail, because if it fails, the country will collapse,” Mbeki said. 

Marrian is the deputy editor of the FM

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