December 1, 2010

ANC weighs giving mayors a third term

THE African National Congress (ANC) is considering a proposal to scrap the two-term limit for South Africa’s mayors, a move that has raised concern that the ruling party may adopt a similar approach in the case of the president. The proposal was mooted by the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, at an ANC summit in Johannesburg on provincial and local government. Mr Mantashe suggested that limiting mayors to two terms may be disruptive to service delivery, and could be depriving smaller municipalities in particular of quality leadership. However, changing the cap of two five-year terms could create a precedent that could be used should a president want to stay on at the end of the maximum two terms prescribed in the constitution for a head of state. Ironically, the ANC has in the past frowned on the idea of a third term.

It was one of the factors used to discredit former president Thabo Mbeki ’s failed bid for a third term as ANC president. Mr Mantashe said the two- term limit was "painful enough at the level of the president", and sticking to the two-term regime was "stretching democracy to its limit". He said "a big chunk" of mayors disappeared after their terms expired — affecting municipal service delivery. "It is important for the ANC to retain people with experience," he said. In the North West, for example, 96% of councillors elected in 2006 were new, when experience was required to save institutions fraught with challenges.

Political analyst Steven Friedman warned against extending mayoral terms. He said a third term would lead to complacency and not to better service delivery. "If a mayor is really good and has a lot to contribute, he can become an adviser to the new mayor," he said. (Business Day)

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