Revolutionary Speaking – President’s Weekly Column – Volume 1 Issue 6

Vol 1: Issue 6
11 November 2022
The Ekurhuleni Metro Council lost confidence in the Executive Mayor Tania Campbell for about two weeks before it restored its full confidence in her.  That means the council business and service delivery were in limbo during that impasse.  The Black communities, which have centuries of service delivery backlogs, came off worse.
A casual look at the municipal councils in South Africa may reveal that the term “vote of no confidence” is in use more than the one of “service delivery”.  “Vote of no confidence” tends to have to do with the self-interests of the politicians and their political parties, while “service delivery” may speak to the developmental interests of the residents.
DA’s Campbell replaced ANC’s Mzwandile Masina who was the Executive Mayor from 2016 to 2021.  Campbell had hardly served 11 months before the ANC sponsored a vote of no confidence to remove Campbell.  The ANC could succeed in that venture if it collaborated with the EFF.  The negotiations between the ANC and EFF seemed to have reached a stalemate because both political parties coveted the position of mayor.  Therein lies the problem.  It seems to me that developmental politics should be about a definite political programme to positively and qualitatively change the lives of the people, rather than placing more emphasis on who gets what positions.
There is no indication that the removal of the DA’s Campbell was based on a disagreement with a political programme and its implementation.  If that was so, who voted the DA’s Campbell in that council?  What was the agreed political programme?  Let us ask this question differently.  When the ANC sponsored a motion of no confidence in Campbell, what was the alternative political programme which caused the same political parties that supported her to cross over to the ANC?  My suspicion is that there was none on the table.  The only thing that was there was the self-interest of the politicians and their parties.
The evidence for the point made above is the fact that the Ekurhuleni Metro political parties had no confidence in Campbell as reflected in 100 votes for her removal, and 93 for her continuation as the mayor.  Yet after two weeks the confidence in her leadership had grown to 124 votes with only 99 votes for her removal.  You are here presented with an unproductive situation where a bunch of parties coalesced to elect Campbell eleven months ago, while the same bunch lost confidence in her two weeks ago, only to regain that confidence two weeks later!
Campbell was in fact returned to her position by the failure of the ANC and EFF to agree who would usurp the spoils of being the mayor.  Both the ANC and the EFF, which were the victors of the vote of no confidence, fielded mayoral candidates.  The EFF later withdrew from the race with the voting results showing that they may have voted in favour of the DA’s Campbell to retain her mayoral position.
The overused tool of the vote of no confidence is rife throughout the South African political landscape.  At the national level, former President Jacob Zuma survived eight votes of no confidence before he succumbed to the last one.  Former President Thabo Mbeki had earlier avoided such a motion by simply resigning.  That had the same effect.
While virtually all councils are governed by the votes of no confidence, the Nelson Mandela Metro has become the embodiment of that vote of no confidence.  As I pointed out earlier on, these motions have little to do with service delivery and the plight of the people.  They are about the selfishness of the politicians and their parties.  Former DA’s Athol Trollip survived three motions of no confidence around 2018 before he was caught by the last one.  Throughout that trial and error of political greed, there were virtually no services delivered to the residents.  Yet the politicians were paying themselves millions of rands from the taxpayers’ money.
The ANC-led coalition removed Trollip in 2019 and replaced him with the late UDM’s Mongameli Bobani.  The Drain Tender corruption and the killings that followed are now public knowledge.  DA’s Nqaba Bhanga faced the same vote of no confidence and survived.  A staged kidnapping of ANC’s Buyelwa Mafaya during a council meeting by four men in 2020 was calculated to abort the possible re-election of Bhanga as the Mayor.  While the DA pushed for the quick appointment of a Speaker to secure Bhanga’s election, Mafaya resurfaced and logged in from the “St Georges Hospital” only to adjourn the meeting.  An out-of-court settlement was reached between the Eastern Cape COGTA MEC Xolile Nqatha and Bhanga for the latter to resign due to improper election.
DA’s Retief Odendaal is now the beneficiary of yet another vote of no confidence in the Nelson Mandela Metro; this time against the ANC’s Eugene Johnson who was removed as the mayor.  In all the councils, very few mayors have finished their terms since the dawn of democracy.
A vote of no confidence would make political accountability sense if it were in the hands of the people to be used against their representatives who do not do their work in the various legislatures.  In that sense, it would serve the developmental needs of the people and ensuring that the power remained in the hands of the people.  As things stand, the vote of no confidence is a counterproductive tool in a stampede of selfish politicians and political parties for positions and resources.  These motions are manifestations of power struggles that are an end in themselves.  This needs to change in a manner that restores the power in the hands of the people.
To be sure, the votes of no confidence are taking place within the domain of coalitions that are necessitated by void caused by hung parliaments or councils.  This shows a shift from where the voters used to entrust power in one and the same political party for long periods of time.  This resulted in the unintended single-party dominance, which went with the creeping of complacency and lack of accountability by the political untouchables.  The hung legislatures are therefore a transitional necessity to ensure that the people reclaim their power.  Unfortunately, all indications are that they brought about political instability and limbo in terms of service delivery. 
The good side about the hung legislatures and coalitions is that the political parties are able to hold one another in check.  However, the downside is that you are sometimes bringing together an assortment of political forces with conflicting ideologies and strategic directions.  The best way to keep coalitions on course is to peg them to a definite political programme that is biased to the development of the people and their communities.