Address by ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2021 Local Government Elections Siyanqoba Rally
Fellow South Africans,
Comrades and Friends,
A month ago, we gathered in Tshwane to launch the ANC’s local government manifesto, where we made a solemn promise to the people of South Africa to do better, to be better and to work together to build better communities.
Since then, ANC leaders, members and volunteers have gone door-to-door across the nation.
We have walked the streets, roads and pathways of our country.
In every village, every town and every city, in every township, informal settlement and suburb we have spoken to the people.
We have heard their concerns and their hopes, their desire for better communities and their dream of a better life for themselves and their families.
We have heard about all the work that the ANC has done.
We have heard about houses that have been built, about impoverished communities that now have electricity and running water, about roads that were once dusty paths that have now been tarred, about new clinics and improved schools, about streetlights and sports grounds, about factories and shops where once there was just open veld.
We have heard about the social grants that have lifted millions out of dire poverty, about the life-changing opportunities of no-fee schools and fee-free higher education, and about the measures government has taken to shield the most vulnerable in our society from the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But we have also heard about the many problems and great difficulties that people experience.
Families confront hunger and poverty every day. Millions of people are unemployed. Many live in informal settlements without basic services. Crime and violence are rife.
Many communities are not getting the services they need and deserve.The provision of water, electricity, waste collection and sanitation is often unreliable, of poor quality and, for many households, unaffordable.
These are the most basic needs for a decent life.
As we have gone throughout the country, people have raised these issues with us clearly, fearlessly and sometimes angrily.
They have sometimes been critical of our performance in local government.
They have complained about councillors that are absent much of the time, and of municipal officials who do not respond to their needs.
We have heard about the ANC’s weaknesses and shortcomings.
People have been forthright in their criticism of the ANC because they know the ANC listens.
And they know that the ANC is in a better position than any other party in this country to improve things.
They have told us that the ANC belongs to them, to the people.
They say that they love the ANC, but that we must correct our mistakes and fix the problems in local government.
The people see that the ANC has the will and the ability to make a change.
They see that the ANC is sincere about its own renewal and they have seen the progress the ANC has made in rebuilding the movement to better serve the people.
This election is about deepening that renewal.
It is about making people feel the renewal of the ANC in their daily lives and allowing them to be part of it.
The renewal of the ANC is evident in the way we have chosen our local government candidates.
We have involved ordinary community members in the candidate selection process, so that ANC candidates have the support and enjoy the confidence of the communities they are expected to serve.
Communities have chosen candidates that they know and respect, men and women with experience, skills and integrity, who will put the interests of the people above their own.
In choosing candidates, communities have said that they want local councils that reflect the composition of our society.
We are pleased that 46 percent of all ANC candidates are women, confirming our shared commitment to gender equality and the achievement of a non-sexist society.
While this is a great achievement, we will not rest until at least half of all ANC candidates and half of all ANC public representatives in all spheres of government are women.
It is also significant that at least a quarter of our candidates are young people.
By joining hands with an experienced cadre of older councillors, these young people will bring greater energy and innovation to local government.
As part of the renewal of the ANC, for the first time, every ANC candidate has signed a solemn pledge to the people they seek to serve.
They have pledged to serve the people with honesty and dedication, and to do so humbly and selflessly.
Each of our councillors has promised to meet with members of the community regularly, to address their concerns and to report back on all developments in the municipalities.
Even when we cannot solve problems, or where it will take time to meet the people’s expectations, councillors pledge to continue to be with people and be accountable.
We will not accept ward councillors who run away when things get tough.
We expect all our local councillors to conform to the values and principles of the ANC, and we will not tolerate any ill-discipline, nepotism, corruption or any other form of wrongdoing.
All councillors will undergo training to ensure they are properly equipped to fulfil their responsibilities.
Also as part of the renewal of the ANC and in support of capable local government, we have changed the way we choose mayors.
All mayors in ANC-led municipalities will undergo a thorough vetting and interview process.
We want mayors with a solid track record of service, who understand local government, and who have the competencies required to lead and deliver.
We want mayors who are honest and ethical, and care deeply about the people.
Through this process, we will ensure those who occupy the most important leadership position in any council are worthy of that responsibility.
To improve the functioning of municipalities and the delivery of quality services, earlier this week we launched the ANC Local Government Barometer.
This Local Government Barometer, which will be published quarterly, will provide an update on whether we are keeping to the commitments that we made in our manifesto.
It will provide an overview of the state of local government and outline the specific actions that we are taking to address challenges.
Working with the community, we will use the barometer to monitor the effectiveness of each councillor, and we will take action where there is poor performance.
This is part of our commitment to be more accountable and to be more responsive.
As a practical demonstration of change in local government, amendments to the Local Government Municipal Structures Act will come into effect on election day.
These changes will promote ethical conduct by councillors and impose harsher consequences for wrongdoing.
We know that things often seem worse before they get better.
We have experienced this within the ANC, where our efforts to renew ourselves have met resistance, have been unsettling and have sometimes increased tensions.
As the African National Congress, we are determined to stay the course, to work harder and with more determination to correct our mistakes and build a better South Africa.
As we have moved throughout the country, we have humbled ourselves before the people.
We have acknowledged our mistakes, and we have also explained how we will correct our shortcomings and how, working with all South Africans, we will do better.
We know that change is difficult; that fixing mistakes is much harder and more demanding than making them.
Over the last two years, we have been working to implement a clear mandate for renewal and rebuilding.
And let’s be clear about this: while the efforts to renew both the ANC and society may be difficult, while sometimes we may experience dark days, there is no going back on this path we have chosen.
We need to be strong and we need to be firm.
We need to do this because we know that only an organisation with a proven track record in building a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society can ensure we complete the process of fundamental social and economic transformation we have started.
As we approach these tasks, we understand the pressure that migration from the rural areas to urban centres puts on infrastructure and services, how it fuels the growth of informal settlements and increases competition for scarce resources.
This means that we need to plan better, direct resources more effectively and intensify our efforts to create economic opportunities in rural areas.
We all appreciate the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our economy and our society.
Our efforts to turn local government around must be seen as an integral part of recovery and rebuilding after COVID-19.
At the same time, the success of our fight against COVID-19 is extremely important for our efforts to build better communities.
By overcoming COVID-19, we will be able to resume many economic opportunities, especially in hard-hit industries, we can direct more resources to local development, ease the pressure on our health facilities, and ensure a full return to schooling.
We therefore call on all South Africans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 without delay, because that is the most effective and the fastest way to restore our country to health.
As the African National Congress, we will turn the pledges we have made in our manifesto into deeds.
We will talk less, and do more.
We will improve the quality and the capabilities of officials in municipalities.
We will speedily conclude a local government skills audit and change the way in which municipal managers, chief financial officers and other senior officials are appointed.
There can be no more jobs for pals.
Local government officials must be able to do their work without undue political interference.
Ultimately, the success of all these efforts depends on building partnerships at local level.
Just as we brought social partners together to develop an economic reconstruction and recovery plan, so too must we build local social compacts in each and every part of the country.
These social compacts should bring together councillors, local businesses, unions, traditional leaders, religious organisations, civil society and communities to address the challenges people face and to build local economies that create jobs and sustain businesses.
It is at a local level where the recovery and transformation of our economy will take place.
This means that we must maintain local infrastructure and provide reliable and consistent services.
It means we must remove regulations that hamper economic growth and use municipal procurement to provide a market for small local businesses.
We will make sure that all qualifying households received the free basic services to which they are entitled.
We will tackle the problem of electricity supply.
At a national level, we will do this by continuing the work that is underway to increase generation capacity.
We will do this locally by investing in electricity distribution infrastructure and enabling municipalities to buy power from different sources.
And so we ask you, the people of South Africa, to vote for the ANC as you go to the polls on Monday, the 1st of November.
We ask you to join us in building better communities.
We ask you to join us in building communities where everyone feels safe in their homes and on the street, where everyone has a decent house, where everyone has reliable electricity, clean water and sanitation.
We ask you to join us in building thriving communities that are close to economic opportunities, where local traders can operate freely, where people can start their own businesses, where schools are well run and clinics are well-staffed and properly equipped.
We ask you to join us in building cities and towns with safe and reliable public transport, where the streets are clean and properly maintained, where there are sports facilities for children and facilities for the elderly and infirm.
We are asking you, the people of South Africa, to give us a mandate to rebuild and renew the country’s cities, towns, villages and rural areas.
By working together, we will win.
Together, we will win these local government elections.
But more than that.
We will win the fight against COVID-19, against poverty and unemployment, against crime and gender-based violence.
We will win the struggle for a growing economy that benefits everyone, for land to work and homes to live in.
We will win the struggle for decent jobs, more opportunities and a better life for all.
On the 1st of November, vote for better communities.
Vote for renewal.
Vote for the ANC.