Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, January 06, 2006

ANC matures in party list selection
One thing I've always enjoyed about Thabo Mbeki is that, for better or worse, he backs himself to make tough decisions that often fly in the face of his natural support. I believe he does this with a bigger picture mentality, in the knowledge that history will judge him better than his traditional support base may at the moment the decision is made. It explains his huge failures on Zimbabwe and AIDS, but also his successes such as the decision to axe Zuma, or the decision made yesterday to purge party lists of "populist" leaders for the upcoming local elections.

The ANC stated yesterday that only "candidates with the skills necessary for running local authorities" had been included on its election list, at the expense of the plethora of populist leaders that use struggle credentials or friends in high places to maintain a corrupt and largelineffectiveve local government. This will divide voters between those that love to see their populist leaders in play versus those that want to improve service delivery, but there is no doubt which side of the fence the future of the country must lie. Service delivery is a failure at local level, and it is no secret that local government in South Africa is a poisoned beast.

The cynical observer will say that this is Mbeki making a play to get his 'yes-men' into key regional government positions to shield him from disruptive activities in the 2007 succession battle. I believe that Mbeki, for all his paranoia and defensiveness, has shown a genuine drive to improve the lot of average South Africans, and to improve the perceptions of government both domestically and internationally. He is in his last term, having to make up for some significant failures in this regard, but his commitment and focus on improving the delivery of government's promises made in his seminal state of the union address cannot be faulted.

I think this decision shows both a maturity on the part of the ANC to move away from people politics towards true service delivery, and a strength in Mbeki's presidential mettle.