By Aneesa Valodia With local government elections looming on 1 November, political party campaigns are in full swing and official party manifestos are everywhere to be seen. This year 325 parties will contest the election, and their manifestos offer a glimpse of what to expect, empowering voters to make informed choices. Some parties have made concrete commitments to anti-corruption, while others fall short. Considering the plague of corrupt activities in government in recent years, it is important to analyse and contextualise these commitments – or in some cases, to question the lack thereof. African National Congress At the African National Congress’s (ANC) manifesto launch, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the party’s failure to address corruption and state capture in the past. He noted that the ANC has been slow to react to corruption allegations and to impose consequences on those public officials accused of corrupt activities. However, Ramaphosa presented the manifesto as proof of a commitment to do better in the future and said that the ‘step aside’ rule had been introduced in the ANC, mandating officials to step aside when charged with corruption. The manifesto relies on now-stale commitments to substantive equality and true democracy, leaning on imagery from 1994. It claims that the ANC has led the fight against corruption but accepts that it needs to work harder in the future. Therefore, it pledges to root out corruption “and all forms of nepotism and malfeasance”. The manifesto includes a commitment to improve appointment processes through lifestyle audits, strengthened monitoring capacity, and increased public consultation. With a separate provision on corruption in the manifesto, the ruling party undertakes to deal decisively with corruption, mismanagement and waste by placing ethical officials in positions of leadership, implementing the step aside rule, removing corrupt officials from office, overhauling procurement processes in government, focusing on ethics and protecting whistle-blowers, and implementing the National Anti-Corruption Strategy. Yet these commitments may ring hollow: the step-aside rule has been criticised for its voluntary nature and lack of strict implementation, particularly in the case of Ace Magashule, who was accused of 74 counts of corruption but refused to step aside in line with party policy. Furthermore, the ANC’s top mayoral candidate in the City of Johannesburg is Loyiso Masuku, whose spouse Bandile Masuku was embroiled in the PPE procurement corruption scandal in his former position as Gauteng health MEC. Democratic Alliance The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) manifesto promises responsible management of public funds and governance in the interests of the people. It addresses corruption head on, committing to “eliminating corruption, adopting best practice in good governance” and improving appointment practices to reduce cadre deployment and corruption in procurement. The party hopes to establish a supply chain management policy that implements rigorous financial checks. In an effort to increase transparency, the manifesto promises to open up tender processes and council meetings to encourage public scrutiny. Juxtaposing itself with the ANC, the DA points to its track record of clean audits in the Western Cape as proof of these commitments. However, in May of this year, a DA ward councillor was charged with corruption relating to funds meant for Covid-19 relief food parcels in the City of Cape Town. The councillor was accused of diverting the funds through a church with links to city officials. In Corruption Watch’s August 2021 Local Government Sectoral Report, the City of Cape Town ranked fifth in an analysis of municipalities with the highest number of corruption-related reports in 2020, with 125 reports in the DA-led territory. The DA launched a manifesto specific to Nelson Mandela Bay, following its loss of the municipality through a motion of no confidence in the DA mayor in 2018. It proposed a system of municipal governance modelled on those Western Cape municipalities that the party claims as its success stories and focused on “dependable basic services, decent housing and reliable public transport”. DA leader John Steenhuisen contrasted the party’s commitments with the ANC’s track record in local government, calling the governing party “a mess”. He condemned the previous coalition with the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay as characterised by corruption and unethical governance, and promised a different future should the DA achieve a majority in the municipal council. Al Jama-ah Also based in the Western Cape, Al Jama-ah styles itself as the party that “walks the talk”. Its manifesto concentrates on service delivery as a realisation of constitutionally enshrined rights, and is grounded in Islamic principles. The manifesto does not contain any broad anti-corruption provisions but mentions key democratic measures such as public participation and investigation into corruption allegations at local police level. Party leader Ganief Hendricks advocated for a presidential pardon for Jacob Zuma following the Constitutional Court majority decision to hand the former president a 15-month sentence for contempt of court earlier this year, saying that Zuma should only face jail time on the basis of a unanimous court decision. Hendricks defended the corrupt former president, calling him a revolutionary. Abantu Integrity Movement Another party contesting elections in Nelson Mandela Bay is the community-based Abantu Integrity Movement (AIM). AIM bills its 10-point plan as the solution to the problems plaguing the municipality. It hopes to uplift the community through a council of competent and credible representatives whose foremost concern is effective service delivery that meets the needs of residents. The party’s leader, Mkhuseli ‘Khusta’ Jack, criticised previous council leaders for mismanagement and corruption, presenting AIM as the bearer of a new era of ethical leadership. Economic Freedom Fighters Focusing on service delivery and socio-economic issues, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) released its manifesto on 26 September after public consultation and party input. The document is based on the party’s seven key pillars, the last of which aims to bring “open, accountable and corrupt-free government” to the South African people. EFF leader Julius Malema insisted, at the manifesto launch, that the EFF has made strides in anti-corruption at the council level. He further committed to settling corruption matters within two months, and to protection for whistle-blowers. The manifesto itself is critical of years of “irregular, wasteful and unauthorised expenditure, and rampant corruption” at the municipal level, which frustrate service delivery. The EFF spells out its plan to create self-reliant municipalities by doing away with the current tender system and insourcing most support services. The party highlights its action against corruption, notably motions to remove corrupt officials in the Eastern Cape Department of Health and in various other municipalities, and a case against an official in Magareng Local Municipality who was later arrested. Underlining corruption as the cause of dysfunctional municipal councils and lack of service delivery, the EFF commits to build capable municipalities and strengthen law enforcement to fight against corruption by establishing anti-corruption units, broadening community oversight mechanisms and increasing internal audit capacity. Extensive though these commitments may be, the shadow of the VBS Mutual Bank scandal still hangs over Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu. This begs the question of whether Malema and Shivambu are genuine in their assurances, or rather seeking to dictate municipal budgets for their own benefit. Inkatha Freedom Party The opening commitment in the Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) manifesto launch in Durban on 30 September was a pledge to lead with integrity. Each of the IFP’s candidates will sign a contract of good governance, compelling them to serve their communities with integrity, respect the rights of all South Africans, and be free from corruption. The contract reflects a dedication to open and responsive local government that is accountable to its constituents. Saying the party has a track record of integrity, leader Velenkosini Hlabisa advocated for the establishment of a specialised corruption court to deal with financial and treasury transgressions. He said the IFP will push for convictions for those found guilty of corruption, instead of “endless commissions” whose recommendations are left to gather dust. Asked in a 702 interview why voters in KwaZulu-Natal should support the IFP, Hlabisa pointed out that in ten years of IFP governance in local municipalities in the province, no IFP premiers or ministers were implicated in corruption. However, in 2019, the United Democratic Front accused the IFP’s uMzinyathi District Municipality Mayor of corrupt activities and siphoning of funds. Further allegations of severe corruption and maladministration arose in the IFP-led Abaqulusi municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal last year. So while a track record of integrity is questionable, a contract of good governance could prove a useful accountability mechanism for citizens to ensure that their representatives are true to their commitments. GOOD GOOD, founded by Patricia de Lille, commits to spatial, environmental, economic and social justice in its manifesto. The party notes that corruption in government steals from the poor by inhibiting effective service delivery. It commits to ensuring that corrupt officials face the full legal consequences of their actions. The party focuses on diverting funds away from wasteful corruption, and towards basic services. It hopes to open up tender processes and give citizens more say in municipal budgets. Though the party is relatively young and has not proven itself in any large municipalities, it offers a principled manifesto, a strong anti-corruption stance, and an online ‘corruption desk’ through which citizens can confidentially report corrupt officials. ActionSA ActionSA’s manifesto emphasises ethical public service and efficient government administration. The party has an extensive anti-corruption plan and claims “zero tolerance for corruption”. It pledges to create independent anti-corruption forensic units in each municipality, with authority to investigate all potential corrupt activities. Further, it plans to implement lifestyle audits for political office bearers, senior public officials and those working in areas vulnerable to bribes, such as supply chain management. The party commits to providing protection and security for whistle-blowers, and hopes to implement a black list to prevent repeated corruption by service providers or other bodies working with municipalities. Upon taking office, Action SA plans to conduct an administration-wide corruption risk assessment, so as to be better equipped to combat corruption. Lastly, the party intends to partner with civil society and other organisations to improve transparency in municipalities through stringent financial controls and dedicated watchdogs. Its manifesto commits to creating electronic, accessible audit trails and sound financial management practices. Conclusion While several manifestos promise to actively fight against corruption in local government, the key question is whether these commitments will come to fruition. Corruption is a key concern for many South Africans, whose basic services are often denied when funds earmarked for socio-economic improvement end up languishing in well-padded pockets. The governing party has not offered many concrete solutions to this scourge but promises change in the coming years. The EFF and DA position themselves as the answer to years of corruption under ANC rule but face allegations of corruption among their own ranks. Along with smaller parties such as Action SA and GOOD, the two opposition parties have published extensive anti-corruption frameworks that include detailed financial management procedures and law enforcement measures.