Our councillors are vulnerable - ANC
Just 18 years into power, ANC representatives in most black townships across the country are being forced to flee their homes as frustrations about a lack of service delivery are vented on them.
In just two years, nine houses belonging to ANC ward councillors have been burnt down in Gauteng alone.
The situation in other provinces is no different.
As the ruling party meets this week to decide on the policy direction the government must take, the ANC in Gauteng will push for a policy that would empower councillors to meet their work obligations.
Speaking to The Times, Gauteng's ANC executive member and chief whip in the legislature, Brian Hlongwa, said a policy shift was needed if the ruling party were to improve service delivery.
Since the beginning of the year, the scale of service-delivery protests has increased, as did the number of councillors' houses that have been attacked.
Hlongwa said this week's policy conference should look intohow public representatives at local level must be safeguarded while increasing service delivery through state support.
"Our councillors are on the face of service-delivery protests. If we lose them, we must forget about improving service delivery," Hlongwa said.
He said the ANC in Gauteng would, among other policy issues, lobby the party' s members to push for greater protection for ward councillors to prevent their properties from being attacked.
According to a number of councillors who spoke to The Times, being a ward councillor was a risk no longer worth taking.
One councillor in Ekurhuleni said he was being pressured by his family to resign his position.
"Every day my wife asks me whether I will be able to protect them the day the community decides to vent its anger on us. It's becoming difficult to assure them that they are safe. Every week you read and see on TV how councillors are losing their houses ... the risk of doing this job is not worth it."
Last year President Jacob Zuma deplored the attacks on councillors but failed to give practical advice on how to avoid them.
Hlongwa said the ANC should take bold decisions, especially when dealing with matters of the legislature.
He said the ANC's policy document on the legislature and governance should also look into the frustrations faced by ward councillors.
Hlongwa said a policy that would provide security for councillors, as was the case for other government leaders, should be looked at.
"When their homes are attacked and burned down, there is no cover for them," Hlongwa said.
In its legislature and governance document, the ANC points out that the extent of community protests suggests weaknesses in its local structures.
The document also blames erratic communication between local representatives and communities as one of the leading causes of protest.
"Though we shout that our government is people-centred, we are, however, failing our ward councillors. They are the first line of defence when people make demands, yet there is minimal support for them.
"As things stand, ward councillors are set up to fail. That is why when there are problems on the ground, they are the first to be attacked."
The ANC is to discuss a number of policy documents at its indaba this week with the hope of making fundamental changes to society. Among those that will attract fierce debate is one on state intervention in the minerals sector.
The ANC Youth League, which has pushed for the Zuma-led government to nationalise mineral resources in the country, will find it difficult to persuade the conference following the rejection of its policy proposals by a number of provinces.
The study, which was commissioned by the ANC, has also dismissed the youth league approach, saying it would cost the economy dearly if implemented unchanged.
Yesterday, Cosatu, one of the ANC's key allies, said the ANC discussion document outlining its "second transition" was littered with contradictions and misconceptions.
Cosatu said the ANC's other discussion documents did not reflect the "notion" of a second transition.
"The 'second transition', therefore, remains an isolated notional idea; it is not elaborated into a concept that defines the parameters and content of the change that it purports to undertake."
It said the document was "littered with denialism" about the damage neo-liberalism had caused to the country since its emancipation from apartheid and colonialism.
"It is incorrect for the document to suggest that the last 18 years was focusing on democratisation and that our focus must now be on social and economic transformation, as if there exists a Chinese Wall that separates politics from economics and social development," Cosatu said. - Additional reporting by Sapa