No point to these musical chairs
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.