(Article by Peter Mansfield, a former chairperson of the Durban City Council Management Committee)

Can you see the smoke rising over Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane?

Smell its acrid fumes? Hear the distant sounds of computer hard drives being smashed?

No, it is not a signal that more ANC factions are rioting for plum jobs on the metro councils. It is the smoke from piles of burning documents as about-to-be-departing civic leaders race to destroy the long-accumulated evidence of corruption – kickbacks, bribes and jobs for unqualified pals. Hard drives being smashed for the same reason.

Will they be departing? Almost certainly

Why? There is very little chance of the ANC getting over 50% in Tshwane, Johannesburg or Nelson Mandela Bay. Only Ethekwini is ANC safe, with Cape Town already firmly in DA hands. In which case, even if the DA does not win outright, I predict a DA marriage-of-convenience with the smaller parties (even, if necessary, the EFF). They may not agree on much else, but all agree that the cities must root out corruption.

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They may not agree on much else, but all agree that the cities must root out corruption

Actually, it’s the same most of the world over. Allow one party to rule too long over any country, province, city or town, and corruption WILL set in. Twenty-two years is already far too long, another five years would be a total disaster. In practice, a democracy is not even a real, functioning democracy unless the governing party changes from time to time.

Initially the corruption is well hidden

But as the years pass, hubris (over confidence), and the belief that the party will rule forever, takes stronger and stronger hold, and the secrets of corruption are less and less well hidden.

When the end comes, it often comes swiftly. Party leaders suddenly see that defeat is just around the corner. Only weeks to go. And they panic! Issue instructions to burn and smash.

Not just the politicians. Many of the staff have been willing accomplices (and beneficiaries). They too, corrupt or corrupted, had joined the trough-of-corruption feeding frenzy.

The first thing they do is destroy ‘dodgy’, self-incriminating documents, and computer evidence too. Happily, many of these ‘burn and destroy’ tenders will be to less-than-competent fellow-feeders who will leave a trail of evidence behind them.

Watch out for last-minute tender awards to pals, appointment of friends and relatives to the city payrolls, last-minute undeserved promotions and salary increases (remember the former homeland leaders when apartheid fell?).

All very sad

Initially, I believed the idealism professed by ANC leaders. I voted for them in 1994 and even offered to help them in the transition years. I’m wiser, and disillusioned now.

If they lose more metros, they are bound to lose many more smaller towns

By August 4, all South Africa’s capitals, Tshwane (administrative), Cape Town (parliament) and Johannesburg (business) are likely to be in opposition hands. And all the major ports too including Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

And the ANC’s problem could be worse than that

If they lose more metros, they are bound to lose many more smaller towns.

No wonder there’s the smell of burning, and the sound of smashing. Few will choose to confess and pay for their sins with their ‘day in court’ and then jail terms – just ask escape artist Zuma! So they will do everything they can to destroy the evidence of their wrongdoing.

How will the ANC behave if the elections are free and fair, and it loses? Will they go peacefully, or hang on for dear life like they did in Oudtshoorn?

There are two very interesting weeks ahead.