The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it is in possession of what appears to be a government document that describes the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity for the “macro re-organisation of the state”, and proposes to make the Command Council system a model for government beyond the lockdown, and could see South Africa’s nine provinces scrapped.
In a press statement on Monday, Cilliers Brink – DA Deputy Shadow Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs – says the document discusses the financial ruin in municipalities that it blames on South Africa’s credit downgrade and the lockdown, and uses this as a gap to extend and consolidate central state control.
Brink argues it was not the credit downgrade and lockdown that resulted in municipalities collapsing, but the work of the ANC, citing the ruling party’s policies, mismanagement and corruption as being to blame.
The DA says it is most concerned by the constitutional implications of what is being proposed in the document which, it says, seems to reveal an ANC plan to slowly roll back the powers of democratically elected local and provincial government.
The DA says “this is nothing short of a coup d’état.”
Apparently the document literally invokes the phrase “Never waste a good crisis” and describes the response of government to the Covid-19 pandemic as “exemplary”, and proposes using the District Development Model and the Command Council system as a means of centralised government policy-making.
This model, it argues, “should inform South Africa’s economic response and it will do so in a way that will disrupt current and old ways of how government has been working”. It will also “bind” all spheres of government.
One of the specific proposals in the document has already been adopted: government ministers will be appointed as “district political champions” to oversee the other spheres of government.
“This presumably includes ministers like Lindiwe Zulu who can hardly manage her own department,” says Brink.
The DA says if its suspicions are justified this proves the District Development model was “never about improving service delivery; instead it was a cover for the ANC grabbing more government power, and eventually doing away with provincial and local elections.”
Scrapping the nine South African provinces
The DA says that just like the ANC used its own failures to attack the Constitution and argue for an amendment of section 25 of the Constitution (regarding land reform), so too will it have “no shame to use the damage done by its own cadres in government to argue for scrapping the nine provinces, and turning municipalities into extensions of the national government.”
The stated intention behind the District Development Model has also been at odds with the hands-off response of national government to the collapse of municipalities, says the DA.
If the national government wanted to, it has the power through the Constitution to intervene when municipalities “self-destruct” (VBS scandal, defaulting on Eskom debt etc), but instead “Minister Dlamini-Zuma has made a conspicuous display of wringing her hands”, says the DA.
The DA says if it’s the ANC plan to govern SA through Command Councils then it suits the party to watch the municipalities collapse.
“It could then say ‘look, the Constitution no longer works’, escape the wrath of voters in places where ANC majorities are thin, all the while securing permanent ANC control,” says the DA. And this would prevent other provinces from doing what the Western Cape managed – to escape life under the ANC and buck the downward economic trend of the rest of the country.
The DA will put a formal question to the President asking whether the document has any formal status in government, and whether its contents reflect current or proposed government policy.
“We will also be keeping a close look at what further proposals emerge under the guidance of the so-called district model, and we will be requesting a record of decisions and discussions of all the Command Councils that have been established across the country,” says the statement.