No point to th­ese mu­si­cal chairs

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

Ihold no brief for Mondli Gun­gubele, ex­cept for the fact that he has the coolest first name in the whole wide world. Which is some­thing I’m sure there will be broad con­sen­sus about. So this col­umn should not be seen as a de­fence of a name­sake, but rather an ob­ser­va­tion of the cu­ri­ous be­hav­iour of our na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Just the other month the feared Moody’s gave the City of Ekurhu­leni a Baa2 rat­ing, a strong vote of con­fi­dence in the man­age­ment of the city’s fi­nan­cial and other af­fairs. The Au­di­torGen­eral has also given this city’s man­age­ment the thumbs up by ac­cord­ing it a clean au­dit for two con­sec­u­tive years.

To all in­tents and pur­poses, Gun­gubele was do­ing a de­cent job, which should have been re­warded with a sec­ond term. Not so in our good repub­lic.

This week, Gun­gubele’s party, the ANC, an­nounced he would be re­moved from of­fice af­ter the Au­gust 3 elec­tions. In eThek­wini, as ex­pected, an­other de­cent mayor by the name of James Nx­u­malo is also on the way out. He will be re­placed by one of the grimmest in­di­vid­u­als in South African politics. And the story of Tsh­wane is very well known.

The may­ors of th­ese towns were among many around the coun­try to whom the ANC is show­ing the door. Some may de­serve the boot, but we are never told the rea­sons for it. The gov­ern­ing party does not deem the pub­lic in­tel­li­gent enough to share its think­ing with them.

Which is all well and fine. The party, like any other, has ev­ery right to de­ploy its mem­bers where it sees fit. It has a right to de­ter­mine where it feels the tal­ent in its ranks could be used best.

But what is puz­zling about the ANC’s de­ci­sions is that it does not fol­low per­for­mance logic.

The same ap­plies at na­tional level. The many Cab­i­net reshuf­fles Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has ef­fected since com­ing into of­fice in 2009 have made very lit­tle sense. A lot of them have seemed like merely the sense­less shuf­fling of deck chairs.

What’s more, there is never an ex­pla­na­tion for any of th­ese moves. There is just a bland an­nounce­ment that the pop­u­la­tion must ac­cept. All we ever hear is the trot­ting out of the fa­mil­iar line that de­ploy­ments are meant to ac­cel­er­ate de­liv­ery and trans­for­ma­tion.

ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe told the na­tion, when he an­nounced the ANC’s may­oral can­di­dates, that the party was “sat­is­fied and con­fi­dent th­ese may­oral can­di­dates con­sist of some of the best com­rades among our ranks to ad­vance our pro­gramme of rad­i­cal so­cioe­co­nomic trans­for­ma­tion”. What­ever that means. What will in­evitably hap­pen now, as hap­pens af­ter ev­ery elec­tion, is an over­haul­ing of the ad­min­is­tra­tion to fit the new may­ors’ wishes. Again, this is a pat­tern we see at dif­fer­ent lev­els of gov­ern­ment when­ever there is a change in the po­lit­i­cal head.

A min­is­ter will dis­lodge a sit­ting di­rec­tor­gen­eral, who will in turn dis­lodge his se­nior of­fi­cials. They will, in turn, do the same to their key em­ploy­ees.

The “new” ad­min­is­tra­tion will then set about putting its own stamp on the par­tic­u­lar depart­ment, sidelin­ing the pro­grammes and pri­or­i­ties of the pre­vi­ous or­der. All th­ese purges and re­ori­en­ta­tions are done un­der the guise of “clean­ing up”. The pre­vi­ous in­cum­bents and their lieu­tenants are then bad-mouthed to show a boast­ful pic­ture of progress un­der the new per­son.

And all of this, by the way, is done by an ANC of­fice-holder who is re­plac­ing an­other ANC of­fice-holder. The poli­cies and pro­grammes that are repri­ori­tised will have been gen­er­ated through ANC struc­tures, but are then found not to be good enough for the new or­der.

It is all very dis­rup­tive and keeps the coun­try dig­ging in one spot.

This is the era we are headed for in the postAu­gust 3 pe­riod. In their in­au­gu­ral speeches and state of the city ad­dresses, the new may­ors will pub­licly give po­lite nods to their pre­de­ces­sors – and then shred their rep­u­ta­tions be­hind the scenes. They will do ex­actly as their coun­ter­parts at na­tional level do.

Good gov­er­nance and good pol­i­cy­mak­ing is very much about pre­dictabil­ity and sta­bil­ity. Th­ese are the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the best-run and sta­ble coun­tries. Even when a new party comes in with new ideas and poli­cies, it is often the same bu­reau­cracy that runs the show and ful­fils the wishes of the new or­der. Change is often min­i­mal and lim­ited to strate­gic po­si­tions.

In our coun­try, in which one party has been dom­i­nant for the past 22 years, there should be even bet­ter con­ti­nu­ity and much less dis­rup­tion.

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