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Research over the last decade on local government in South Africa has highlighted that some municipal councils under the political leadership of the Africa National Congress (ANC) have shown weak political leadership, coupled with strong patronage systems, rent-seeking and corruption which have had an impact on the institutional functionality of municipalities in South Africa. Although patronage politics have been predominantly used to analyse the dynamics of post-apartheid local government ANC politics and councillor representation, this prevents us from understanding the representational focus of ANC councillors in decision-making processes. This paper offers an ethnographic insight into experiences of ANC councillors and the political complexities involved in council decision-making. Using ethnographic research, this paper will analyse how a political decision by the ANC provincial party, which was supported by the ANC regional party at local level – to erect a statue of Nelson Mandela in one of the municipalities in the Northern Cape – generated tensions amongst ANC councillors who strongly viewed their primary role as promoters of better ‘service delivery’ rather than approving the allocation of scarce municipal resources for erecting a statue. The paper reveals how the dominant presence of ANC sub-regional structures at local level contribute to the complex interaction of both ANC party political and municipal organisational rules and norms that influence and shape councillors’ choices in decision-making.
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