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Provinces debate ‘nothing new’: Analyst

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There has been a “vigorous contestation of ideas” within the ANC around the possibility of cutting the number of provinces in South Africa, according to political analyst for Ethicore political consulting, Abdul Waheed Patel. The topic came to the fore over the weekend during the ANC in the Western Cape’s Provincial General Council (PGC), with the regional branch making no secret of its intention to pursue a reduction in provinces.

Amongst the biggest qualms of the ruling party is that with the current number of provinces, as well as the existence of both provincial and local government in each, there are far too many spheres of government that are overlapping; something that is supposedly hampering service delivery in each region. But the matter is not something new to the ANC, with Patel noting that the debate itself precedes the 1994 dispensation. At the ruling party’s 2012 policy conference, the matter was yet again raised.

“If you look at the 2012 policy documents of the ANC, you will see the recommendations of this governance committee indicating that the party will investigate the viability of both the current system of government, not only in relation to provinces but the entirety of government,” he explained, insisting that the debate went beyond that of just the dividing of provinces, towards improving the overall systems of governance.

Amongst the key recommendations from the weekends PGC was the cutting out of provincial government and giving full power and resources to municipal governments, seen as an attempt to curb the overlapping of governance and potentially stamp out corruption. Patel said the debate was being raised in the context of the impact so many spheres of government were having on the quality and speed of service delivery.

“It’s also been raised in the context of the efficiency and management of government recourses, including issues of avoidance of maladministration and corruption,” he stated.

Furthermore, he said the big question around the matter would arise from a legal and constitutional point of view.

“Does it enhance the ability of the state to deliver on the mandate of a democratic state if you retain provinces, or if you reduce or remove them altogether? Also what would be the ideal configuration and number if you did either of those?” he questioned.

Patel added that such a move would need to pass through a legislative process and require an amendment of the constitution, the latter of which requires a 2/3 majority within the national assembly. The ANC currently does not have that majority to merely change the constitution.

The DA has been vocal in its opposition to the proposal, warning of an approach to the Constitutional Court if the ruling party persists with the matter. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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