We are all fixed with the question “who will run the country” but perhaps the better question is “who will be running my province?”. An even better question may be “who is running my municipality?”.


If one casts your mind back to the CODESA talks, which laid out the blueprint for the constitution, much discussion was had around what the “New” South Africa would look like. There was a clamouring for federalism. Lets have these strong provinces who would be closer to the electorate, along the lines of the United States of America and Germany. Everybody, especially minorities, thought that this was a good idea because it would allow provinces to act in the specific interests of its voters. What is needed in the Western Cape or Gauteng is inherently different to what is required or acceptable in Limpopo or the Free State. Central government becomes incidental to the way the country is run.


This must have been a good idea because the ANC hated it. Former President, Thabo Mbeki, tried very hard to engineer a change. So did Zuma and even Ramaphosa has mentioned this. It is easy to see why; as the ANC descends further into becoming a rural party with support only in rural KZN, Eastern Cape, Limpopo etc, they struggle to run a modern urbanised economy and are continually embarrassed by the performance of the Western Cape.


So what became of this idea? Well, while nobody was watching, this is starting to happen in South Africa.


Ironically, it was ANC leaders themselves that really got this ball rolling. Jacob Zuma’s entire rise to power and Presidency was built on his KZN stronghold. Cyril Ramaphosa looks to Limpopo anytime he is under pressure. No surprises as to where Ace Magashule or David Mabuza will start their Presidential campaigns. But it is not only about ANC power.


Just think about the Democratic Alliance and their Western Cape stronghold. Through good governance and their adequate service delivery, it is highly unlikely that they will lose the provincial vote for the foreseeable future. This has proven to be such a valuable asset that the DA even jettisoned Patricia de Lisle as Mayor of Cape Town as the questions started to mount about her autocratic style. The DA then installed their best leader, Alan Winde, as Premier of the Western Cape despite his “unfortunate” demographic. His impressive handling of the Covid 19 pandemic has proven that decision to be the right one. I would eat my hat if the voters in the Western Cape removed them regardless of which tee shirt they are wearing. All voters know that they cannot eat ideology, they also know that there are no cameras in the polling booth.


The recent Constitutional Court ruling allowing independent candidates to stand in general elections could open the floodgates for parties or coalitions, to use their local popularity to form Provincial Governments. There is another huge advantage to the citizens of this beleaguered country; support will have to be won through service delivery and service delivery alone. The African strong man politics of Zuma and Magashule are no longer working the way they did a decade ago.


For the past decade, we have seen a trend in the Northern and Eastern Cape provinces, whereby the support for the DA has grown as family members who have migrated to the Western Cape have returned telling eye-opening stories of service delivery, education standards and job opportunities. This even forced the Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, to fire his dodgy Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba. We all know that this sudden interest in service delivery is not driven by civic duty, it is driven by self preservation and the sound of opposition hooves down the road.


The Gauteng Province is already in play, with the ANC government holding on to a slim majority. The recent theft of pandemic money will not do them any good, and with Herman Mashaba going after people who have historically not voted and the DA and Freedom Front Plus still getting the minority vote, things could get interesting. We should remember that the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) once ruled KwaZulu Natal and it was only when the ANC played the Zulu card in Jacob Zuma, that the IFP lost the province. This could be reversed if Mangasotho Buthelezi gave way to a new breed of effective leaders and not relics of the past.


Later this year, South Africa will have local government elections. These have become a vital stepping stone towards a more federalist future. We can only hope that our country men and women will be suitably tired of corruption, excuses and potholes to vote for a better future. It won’t take much to change things.


Kind Regards
Michael Sham

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