How SA political parties choose best and worst leaders

In the absence of guidelines for electing those who lead government, political parties have devised their own mechanisms that they believe can give South Africa the best leaders.

Mpumalanga’s “big three”, the African National Congress, Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters have each shared how they choose those who may lead government.

The ANC, which characterises itself as a democratic organisation, boasts of having the most advanced processes of nominating leaders.

“The ANC’s nomination process is the best way of electing candidates, because it gives branches of the ANC a chance to nominate candidates of their choice, and then allows ANC structures to guide them,” said ANC spokesperson, Sasekani Manzini.

She believes that her organisation’s systems are transparent and allow mass participation of its members.

“There are no other organisations that have a process as robust as this one, which is done by more than one million South Africans. It is the most transparent process of all political parties.

“In fact, I have not heard of any other Provincial List Conference except that of the ANC,” she said.

Manzini insists that the process is vigorous and considers several important attributes.

“The guidelines of the ANC demand that branches take into consideration skills, and demographics of the country when nominating their preferred candidates,” she said.

On the opposite side, the leader of the Democratic Alliance in Mpumalanga believes that their method gives ordinary South Africans the opportunity to be in parliament.

“Our system is the best because it gives every South African the opportunity to be a member of parliament. You do not need your father’s credentials that he was in the struggle and therefore you must be in parliament,” she said.

“The DA’s processes start with an advertisement calling for any South African to apply to be in parliament.

“There are selection panels which select suitable candidates who undergo interviews as though they were applying for a job,” said Sithole.

“We look for academic qualifications, management skills either in the corporate or government environments.

“We also look for people who have been community leaders for a long time,” she said.

Sithole said that the candidates are evaluated fairly because they process the gathered data through a computer system that generates the final list.

She also claims that the DA’s system is transparent and objective because half of those who constitute the panels are drawn from the public.

“Those who constitute the panels are 50% non-public representatives and are people who have no interest in the outcomes,” she said.

Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Collen Sedibe, also believes that his organisation’s method is best suited for the South African electoral system.

“The list process of the EFF is democratic, transparent, open and fair. It starts from the regions where the constitutionally elected structures hold their own regional list assemblies and nominate their own preferred candidates for both province to province and province to national list in order of preference through a ballot.

“Then the provinces follow like that also with their constitutionally elected structures.

“The National List Conference is the final arbiter because this is where all provincial and regional structures collectively meet and vote for their preferred candidates to provincial legislatures and National Assembly,” said Sedibe.

Though all three organisations believe that their list processes are infallible and have written guidelines, they have not been without controversies.

The biggest criticism of the ANC processes is its failure to adhere to the organisation’s guidelines. Normally, the organisation secretly develops and circulates lists according to factions.

Regional leaders and other self-appointed leaders are then deployed to all branch general meetings to ensure that branches nominate according to their slate. Branches that don’t comply are disbanded or barred from attending conferences.

The biggest criticism of the DA list processes is that it produces more white leaders than blacks, even though blacks are in the majority.

Sedibe also claims his party’s the nomination processes cannot be manipulated.

“Voting is by secret ballot and counting of votes is transparent and open to everyone as each region and province send two observers. So far we have not experienced any problems because no one lodged a dispute about the outcomes of the list process. Everyone got what he or she was given by delegates.” he said.

What all three parties have to be credited for, however, is that they have at least 50% representation of women in their lists.

Whatever the processes that each party adopts, the South African electoral system has proven that the outcome cannot be guaranteed, and there are many examples to prove that.

The ANC processes produced world acclaimed leaders, such as Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. But they also produced a captured president, Jacob Zuma.

Democratic Alliance, or at least its predecessor, the Progressive Federal Party produced the respected Helen Suzman and Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, but it also produced Helen Zille who believes colonialism was good for Africans.

Economic Freedom Fighters’ processes have produced some of the finest intellectuals like Floyd Shivambu and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, but they have also produced a Marshall Dlamini, the EFF MP who slapped a DA MP during the 2019 SONA.

So, the next time South Africa has a leaders that misgoverns, this is how easy or difficult it is for them to reach the top.

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