With service delivery continuing to be a challenge in South Africa, some community members believe they can do a better job than political parties.
In this year’s local government election, the number of independent candidates who intend to participate has increased.
Dubbed as the most important local government elections, the upcoming November first polls are expected to shift the direction of political parties and strongholds. The presence of COVID-19 has also presented challenges for political party campaigning. Despite this, campaigns are in full swing, with political parties and independent candidates out to garner votes.
Independent candidates have positioned themselves to take over the running of municipalities with the aim to depoliticise the local government sphere and introduce professional leadership at a local level.
Resident in the Emfuleni municipality, Vincent Jones is one of 45 independent candidates in the municipality looking to change the lives of its residents. The municipality, in Sebokeng in the south of Johannesburg, has been marred by corruption allegations and was placed under administration by Gauteng COGTA MEC, Lebogang Maile after years of financial malfunction and mismanagement. Jones believes the solution lies in depoliticising governance at the local level.
“The vision of the movement is to work toward a non-political, professional, and clean local government. We are contesting this year’s local government elections and we are saying South Africa is a highly politicised country to a point where we don’t know the difference between what is governance and what is politics and we are in all this mess and trouble and the collapse of municipalities because we have taken politics and put it where it does not belong in local government. For us to get local government to work and provide quality services to the people, we have to depoliticise, we have to take all party politics out of local government.”
Without the chanting of big political parties, independent candidates will have to find ways to appeal and be visible and relevant to the South African public. In 2016, the municipal elections saw over 800 independent candidates availing themselves while over 900 independent candidates have tossed their names in the hat for the upcoming local government elections, each stepping out of the shadow of political parties to try and bring an alternative.
Candidate for the Moses Kotane Municipality, Mildred Motsoasele echoes Jones’ sentiments. She says she will incorporate the community and traditional leaders in the municipality in striving for transparency.
“Everything about local governance is being politicised. Service delivery, politicised. Everything within our municipalities is dented by the decisions made not for the benefit of the people but for the benefit of the selected few. Moses Kotane is in desperate need for community and traditional leadership involvement. What we can assure is transparent and sound governance with integrity and with this, we plan to strengthen our relationship with traditional leadership.”
With the increase in voter apathy, independent candidates believe the promise of better service delivery is what will catapult them to the helm of local government.
Candidate in Bethlehem in the Free State is Isolde Laesecke, “The local municipality can’t keep up with service delivery. Infrastructure is down the drain… why am I standing? I’ve been asked by the community that I’ve been serving my whole adult life and specifically for the last seven years. The people are sick and tired of political parties promising things before elections and then after elections they just disappear. I’m standing for three wards and I’m planning to win all three wards as an independent. It gives people the courage to stand up for what they believe in and stop this corruption because no one else is going to do this for us if we don’t do it for ourselves.”
Candidate in the Enoch Mgijima local municipality in the Eastern Cape, Ken Clarke says the challenges that bedevil the municipality have led to its collapse.
The municipality owes Eskom about R600 million while Clarke says there is no delivery of services to residents. He says ethical leadership will be the cornerstone of the municipality should he be elected by voters.
“All we are promising our voters is ethical leadership and dedicated service and we’ll make sure that we’ll restore the services that they’re entitled to in the constitution. We’re certainly hoping that we get a lot of support because the ANC has failed the voters of Enoch Mgijima.”
The impact that the increase of independent candidates will have in the upcoming municipal elections remains to be seen and whether voters will lend their votes to small parties and independent candidates as they head to the polls in five weeks.
LGE 2021 | ‘Independent candidates in Emfuleni aiming to depoliticise local government’