Editorial: What about the people?

In his fascinating but very depressing book, How to Steal a City, veteran activist Crispian Olver writes about how the ANC’s political machinery captured the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) municipal bureaucracy and turned it into a cash cow.

In one of many jaw-dropping episodes – and there are many – he relates a story about the ANC’s desperate fund-raising efforts in the run-up to the 2016 municipal elections. As an ANC activist and a technocrat who had been sent to assist then mayor Danny Jordaan to turn the metro around, he was roped in to help raise money and keep the lights on in the party’s offices.

So, when the municipality wanted to switch the ANC’s electricity off because of unpaid bills, Olver stepped in to ask for some latitude. A municipal official suggested that there was a potential donor who would make a generous donation in return for a meeting with the minister of energy. With Olver’s help, a meeting was hastily organised and the donation duly followed.

While the municipal officials and ANC apparatchiks felt this to be very normal, he “could not shake the feeling that I had gone over to the dark side”.

He would later discover that a chunk of the money had not even reached the ANC and had been distributed among officials as a “facilitation fee”.

That was the norm in the ANC-run NMB metro, a cesspool of corruption where comrades cared little for the people. Say what you will about the misogynistic Athol Trollip, but he cared more for the people of NMB than the greedy lot who run the ANC in that region. His tenure was more pro-poor than those who constantly talk about “our people”.

The same goes for Tshwane, with the supposedly white-oriented DA administration of Solly Msimanga. Truth be told, Msimanga’s government has been much more responsive than the kleptocrats who were there before.

Unable to survive away from the feeding trough, the ANC has been doing its utmost to oust him so the cadres can eat again. The eaters have been ably assisted by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), whose main interest seems to be to flex its muscles and show how powerful its kingmaker role is.

In the process, it is the people who emerge the losers in these senseless battles in the metros.

If the ANC and the EFF truly cared about the people, as they purport to, they would focus on holding the DA accountable and making sure it delivers properly, instead of playing these reckless games.