Davos - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is the first senior government minister and African National Congress NEC member to back Jacob Zuma’s call that candidates for local government cannot be political “cronies”.
Instead Gordhan insisted that they be competent individuals who can manage their localities efficiently.
Until 17 days ago, Gordhan was Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister and has an intimate understanding of what needs to be done to turn around local governments across South Africa. His successor is continuing with the Back to Basics campaign to re calibrate municipal finance and service delivery. Speaking on the sidelines of the WEF conference in Davos Switzerland, he didn't mince his words.
“A lot of it is not about money, its about political decisions, it’s about hiring competent people, having clever and clear plans, planning ahead of time, having a proper procurement process… not giving it to cronies and getting value for money at the end of the day.
“And between Cogta and Treasury, I think we need to have a much more detailed focus on some of these things and the political parties must choose candidates for the next elections that will help us to do this work.
“No amount of technical work is going to help at this level.
“There are structural issues that we need to look at as well. Cities and towns and villages will become very important as we go forward. In terms of social cohesion, restructuring the environment so it is more business friendly, getting plans passed quicker because those are the hurdles that businesses have to cross if they want to get things going. Also (In terms of) zoning, I believe there's a lot of manipulation going on.”
But there were also some excellent work going on in municipalities that doesn't get the recognition, said Gordhan.
An illustration of the financial mess municipalities finds themselves in was revealed in Parliament on Thursday - municipalities have scrapped R302 million in debt as they battle to to recoup billions of rands owed to them by households, businesses and government departments.
But Gordhan will be keeping a beady eye on that sphere of government.
But, the call for the ANC to appoint competent people instead of party strongmen, could set off fierce competition and jostling for positions at municipal level.
When Zuma delivered the governing party's January 8 Statement, it stated a clear line of march that ANC branches have been stripped of their powers to select which leaders who may stand as party candidates for this year’s local government elections, with these now being given to communities.
This was among the moves the party will be making to regain the trust of communities ahead of the local government elections.
Zuma had outlined this as part of a strategy to “give power back to the people”.
This was significant as the local communities would now hold the power to reject leaders they were unhappy with.
“The ANC believes that our local government representatives must have the trust and confidence of the community where they live and serve,” said Zuma at the time.
He told ANC members and supporters at the January 8 statement rally in Rustenburg, that ANC branches would not be allowed to impose candidates on communities.
“We remind branches that we select three nominees at an ANC branch meeting and present our nominees at a community meeting. The community is then given an opportunity to interrogate these nominees and to give their views on who must be the candidate.”
Gordhan also told Independent Media that State Owned Companies were put on notice that they cannot depend to be bailed out when in financial difficulties.
He said some of these entities were meant to provide dividends to the state and that he expected them to get their houses in order. Transparency, good governance and profitability as well as delivering on their developmental mandates was what he expected of these institutions.
In February Gordhan will most likely lay down the granular detail of his plans to get these struggling parastatals into shape.