Address by ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC ‘Thank You’ event after the 2021 Local Government Elections
Fellow South Africans, Comrades and Friends,
A week ago, millions of South Africans went to the polls to cast their votes in the sixth local government elections since the advent of democracy.
Once again, these elections were held in conditions of peace and stability, where every citizen was able to cast their votes freely and without fear.
The holding of regular free and fair elections is one of the great strengths of our constitutional democracy.
It gives meaning to the declaration in the Freedom Charter that “no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”.
As the African National Congress, we wish to congratulate and thank all South Africans who voted on Monday and on the special voting days.
Every single vote counts, and every single vote contributes to determining the path our country will follow.
We wish to commend the Independent Electoral Commission for mounting a massive logistical operation and ensuring a successful election.
The IEC did this under the difficult conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic cast doubt on the viability of the elections and severely affected the election timetable and planning.
It is a credit to the IEC, state institutions like the SAPS and all political parties that the election went ahead and that it was so successful.
On behalf of the ANC leadership, we wish to thank all the ANC candidates, staff, campaign workers and volunteers for the extraordinary effort that they put into this hard-fought election campaign.
With limited resources and with preparations hampered by COVID-19 restrictions, ANC volunteers carried out an intensive campaign across the length and breadth of the nation.
As the African National Congress, this was probably the most difficult election campaign that we have had to undertake, and it is the worst electoral outcome for the ANC in the 27 years of democracy.
This is the first time that the ANC’s share of the national vote has fallen below 50%.
The ANC’s support declined in all provinces and we only achieved an outright majority in two of the eight metro municipalities in the country.
The low voter turnout is of great concern: only 46% of registered voters cast a ballot in this election, compared to 56% of registered voters in the last two local elections.
Beyond the impact that such a low voter turnout had on the ANC’s performance, such a low turnout has grave implications for our democracy, for building an active citizenry and for the standing of our local government institutions.
The ANC will be undertaking an extensive and detailed assessment of these election results and the factors that were critical in determining the outcome.
While there are many issues that would have contributed to the outcome, we are the first to acknowledge that the most critical factors are those that have to do with the state of the ANC and our performance in government.
The poor state of many municipalities was a key factor to the decline in support for the ANC, which was exacerbated by high levels of unemployment and poverty and serious concerns about crime and safety.
We acknowledged many of the problems in municipalities in our manifesto and on the campaign trail.
We said that many municipalities have not delivered as they should have; that there is corruption, waste and under-spending in many councils; and that in several communities, water is a major problem, electricity supply is not stable, and refuse is not collected regularly.
We have also recognised that disunity, factionalism, corruption and patronage within the ANC itself has had a significant impact on voters’ attitudes towards the organisation.
And what is most crucial is the link between the state of the ANC and the performance of government at all levels. People feel that a weak and divided ANC is incapable of addressing their needs and concerns.
This election has sent a very clear and strong message to the ANC.
Five-and-a-half million South Africans voted for the ANC in these elections.
They reaffirmed their confidence in the ANC to lead their municipalities and to provide the services they need.
Through their votes they said that they continue to support our movement, but that they expect us to correct our mistakes, to restore our values, and to serve the people more effectively.
At the same time, millions of people who voted for the ANC in the past chose to stay away from the polls.
They chose to stay away rather than cast their votes for any other party.
In doing, so they made a powerful statement about their disappointment, discontent and frustration with the ANC.
By not voting, they have sent a clear message, that the ANC is not living up to their expectations.
Most importantly, they have said that the ANC must fix its own problems if it is to be trusted to effectively serve the needs and the interests of the people.
The people of South Africa have spoken.
They have spoken loudly and we have heard.
We do not celebrate our losses.
We respect the message we have received from voters and will act with urgency and purpose to correct our mistakes and significantly improve our performance.
Those South Africans that voted for us and those that stayed away have – in different ways – both given us a firm instruction to undertake without any further delay the fundamental renewal of our movement.
Renewal and rebuilding will be our overriding organisational priority as we emerge from this election.
We recognise that if we are to regain the confidence of the people we need to change in far-reaching and fundamental ways.
Voters have sent a clear message that we need to focus on governance, on ridding councils of corruption and maladministration, and on making sure that services are provided reliably and affordably.
That is our immediate task.
Now that the election results have been declared, we are focusing our efforts on establishing progressive and developmental local government in as many parts of the country as possible.
While we have seen a decline in our support, the reality is that the ANC is still, by a significant margin, the most popular political organisation in the country, with nationwide support.
We have received more than 10.6 million votes.
We have more than 4,500 local government seats and an outright majority in 167 councils.
We are the largest party in every metro, except Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay.
The results of this election provide us with a firm mandate to implement the commitments we made in our election manifesto in municipalities across the country.
It also gives us a solid foundation to enter coalition agreements in those municipalities where we did not win an outright majority, but where we nevertheless have substantial support.
The fundamental consideration that informs any agreement we enter into with other parties is whether it will enable us to implement our electoral mandate and contribute to the improvement of the lives of the residents in that municipality.
We will not enter into coalitions at all costs.
Our decisions will be principled, political and strategic.
As we enter into coalitions, we will insist that coalition relationships are structured, that there are clear coalition agreements in place and that the contents of agreements are known to voters.
We want coalitions that are stable, credible and have an agreed programme of work that delivers what communities need.
Another immediate task is to elect mayors and other senior office bearers who are capable, experienced and committed.
We have adopted a comprehensive set of criteria for Mayors, Speakers and other political office-bearers.
Later this week, we will be undertaking a series of rigorous interviews of prospective candidates conducted by members of the National Executive Committee and other ANC cadres with experience in local government and development.
These interview panels will be considering candidates’ qualifications and relevant experience.
Among other things, they need to understand the social and economic drivers of local government.
They need knowledge of budgeting and financial management and a firm grasp of the legal context of local government
Above all, they need to be leaders in good standing: honest, people with integrity and high ethical standards; no criminal record; no pending corruption charges; and they must be rooted and grounded in the community.
The changes that people want to see at a local level will be led by the thousands of ANC councillors who will soon be taking office and many who will soon be forming new councils.
For the first time, all ANC councillors will sign deployment contracts which clearly outline their roles and responsibilities.
No ANC councillor will be sworn in without entering into the Contract of Deployment, and the ANC will recall any public representative that does not honour this contract.
Through their actions – from the moment they are elected to the day they leave office – we expect our councillors to demonstrate that the ANC is committed and able to respond to people’s daily concerns and needs.
All ANC councillors must remember, throughout the next five years, the solemn pledge that they made to the people:
to serve with honesty and dedication, and to do so humbly and selflessly;
to be responsive, inclusive and accountable;
to end corruption, fraud and patronage, no matter what form it takes and no matter who is involved;
- to strive each and every day to improve the lives of the people they serve.
We are starting now to implement our electoral mandate, and working to ensure that communities start to feel the difference in
An immediate priority in every municipality where we govern is to ensure that all residents have reliable and affordable electricity, water and sanitation.
Through the District Development Model, we will align the work of national, provincial and local government to ensure that planning and budgeting is properly coordinated and service delivery is improved.
The ANC’s 54th National Conference in December 2017 provided a directive to the entire leadership and membership of our movement. It said:
“Organisational renewal… is an absolute and urgent priority, and we may go as far as to say, is essential to the survival of our great movement.”
Now, with these election results, we also have a clear mandate from the people of South Africa for fundamental renewal and rebuilding.
As the ANC, we are not discouraged by the results of these elections. We are not despondent or defeated.
The people of South Africa have spoken, clearly and powerfully, about what we need to do to regain their trust and to earn their support.
We are more determined than ever before to unite our movement, to correct our mistakes, to root out corruption and nepotism, and to be more accountable and more responsive.
Through everything that we do now, we will show that we are serious about fixing local government and that we are determined to build the ANC as an ever more effective instrument of meaningful and lasting change.
There are many challenges ahead and there is much work to do.
As the African National Congress, we are fully committed to do what the people of this country expect, demand and deserve.
I thank you.