The ANC is pushing full steam ahead with the reconfiguration of provinces, despite an outcry from opposition parties.
The ANC policy conference called for a presidential commission to be set up, and for its work to be completed before the party’s elective conference in December.
The ANC took a decision in 2007 that the number of provinces be reduced to six, instead of nine.
National executive committee (NEC) member Obed Bapela said the commission would look into the powers, functions and number of provinces. This was one of the rafts of proposals from the ANC policy conference that ended last Wednesday.
“We have to harmonise powers and functions of provinces and local government because, in some areas, there is contestation of space,” Bapela said. He was addressing the media following its policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre last week.
The party took a resolution at its 2007 Polokwane elective conference to reduce the number of provinces from nine to six. It said at the time that this would help improve delivery of services.
At its 2015 national general council, it again called for a presidential commission, but this has not materialised yet.
At the time, the ANC faced criticism from opposition parties that this was an attempt to stay in power.
The ANC has consistently received fewer votes at the polls since the 2009 national elections. There are fears that it could find itself with an even more reduced majority, or even on the opposition benches in provinces like Gauteng, where it only managed 53% in the 2014 elections and lost the metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
However, Bapela denied that the renewed urgency was linked to the upcoming 2019 elections.
“This is a Polokwane resolution, it is as old as that, it has nothing to do with 2019,” he said.
He said the move was motivated by the “concentration of resources” at a provincial level, whilst most of the delivery of services happened at a local government level.
“A lot of money goes to provinces and, when you go to municipalities, the equitable share currently is 9%. It used to be 7% (2007), and yet a lot of service delivery ought to happen at the municipalities,” Bapela said.
Another key proposal is that demarcation should only happen every ten years, in line with the country’s census. This comes after the ANC faced hostility and violent protests in places like Vuwani and Malamulela over demarcations.
However, Bapela said that the delimitation would be continuous because of rural to urban movement.