“Comrades, do not be demoralised by the fact that we are not controlling municipalities because this is a temporary setback.”
These were the words of ANC’s provincial chair David Makhura on Friday, speaking to hundreds of newly elected councillors at the party’s first councillors’ assembly in Johannesburg.
The purpose of the assembly was to, among other things, allow councillors to sign contracts of deployment “committing themselves to basic values of organisational discipline”.
It also discussed how the ANC could become an effective opposition, regain lost ground and improve service delivery and co-ordination.
The assembly comes two months after the ANC took a beating in the local government elections and was subsequently relegated to opposition benches in the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni metros.
Despite losing the richest metros in the country, Makhura said this did not characterise an end of an era for the party, and that it was a “strategic setback” ahead of the 2024 provincial and national elections.
“The setbacks we have suffered now are nothing compared to our past struggles, when the movement was almost wiped out. The ANC had to be rebuilt afresh.”
Makhura was confident the party would bounce back it got its house in order.
“It is a temporary setback. It many ways, it can be temporary if we address the fundamental concern of our people and we rebuild the ANC.
“We will be back. And when we say we will be back, it is not out of arrogance, but we will attend to the issues in all the wards, areas, municipalities,” he said.
As part of rebuilding efforts, the party said it would not only attend to service delivery issues but also capitalise on the low voter turnout which was indicative of people’s anger towards the party, at least according to Makhura.
“In most of the areas, people chose to stay at home and did not come out to vote. In our political assessment, people were sending a serious message that they are not happy. They didn’t vote for other parties, and so we will attend to people’s issues.”
The newly elected councillors are in a better position to rebuild the party and will play a critical role in ensuring that the ANC does not suffer a “strategic defeat” in 2024, party leaders said.
“There is a difference between a strategic defeat and a strategic setback. We have suffered strategic setback, but the battle or struggles continue … If the ANC does fix itself, then we will suffer a strategic defeat,” Makhura said.
He urged the councillors to be at the forefront of bringing up community issues, advancing party policies at the metro’s council meetings instead of fighting and staging walkouts.
The party’s provincial treasurer Parks Tau echoed similar sentiments, cautioning councillors against going through “depression mode” after electoral losses.
Tau urged councillors to ensure that there was no social distancing between themselves and their constituencies, to “up” communication significantly and have well-thought-out strategies at council meetings.
The party vowed to offer constant workshops, training and possibly “counselling even if it is through political engagement” to offer support to all its 518 councillors.