Monday, January 25, 2016

What is it like to apply to be a councilor for the Democratic Alliance?

Recently IOL ran a story quoting James Selfe and how they are going to make applying for 2016 local elections the toughest application process they have ever put candidates through..

The following quote from IOL explains the process that James Selfe is talking about:

DA federal chairman, James Selfe said the party was taking no chances. Future public representatives undergo a rigorous selection process and have to write aptitude tests to ascertain their fitness to hold public office.
Selfe said candidate selection has already started elsewhere in the country.
“Our candidate nomination process has three stages. First, all aspirant candidates appear before an electoral college, elected by the branches in the municipality in which the candidate wishes to stand.
“This electoral college elects a pool of candidates that is twice the size of the number of councillors we estimate will be elected in that municipality,” Selfe said.
He added that “approved aspirant candidates” will then appear before a selection panel, which interviews them and assesses their fitness by scoring them on a series of aptitude tests.
Selfe said there is at least one selection panel for each municipality.
“The selection panel arranges the candidates in descending order of scores.
“It also recommends the candidates that should be nominated in the various wards,” he said.

So what was it like to apply to be a public representative for the Democratic Alliance in 2016 Local Government Elections?

The short version. Very difficult, highly competitive, transparent and fair.

I thought I would document the following process so anyone who wants to become a councilor for the Democratic Party know that its not an easy or simple thing.

I did all the following steps on the back of my current experience of 5 years of volunteer work for the Democratic Alliance, serving first as a Vice-Chair for my ward branch, attending the Young Leaders Programme in 2013, becoming a Chair for my branch, was voted in a constituency leadership position (Vice-Chair for Buffalo City Coastal Constituency), was elected to serve on the RMC (Regional Management Committee) and was placed in the EMTT (Electoral Management Task Team).

Even with the years and time behind my name I still had to go through the following process (like most other candidates).

  1. - Applied to be a public representative for the Democratic Alliance.
  2. - Had to go through interview process to be accepted as a POTENTIAL candidate
  3. - Had to do an ideological test (they use this to assess your political orientation)
  4. - Did 6 month online course through their education portal called, “PCP (Potential candidate program). This was difficult and it often involved having to submit several thousand word essays on a topic. Everything is covered, from party history, structure, and effective counselor training skills (like how to work with a municipality, how to use the auditor generals report for research, research skills, leadership skills, municipal by-laws, working with civil society, time management, effective meeting management, the constitution and what's expected from a DA councilor (the job description is 8 pages long).
  5. - Had to attend many other training sessions and briefings.
  6. - Had to spend several months doing community work in rural areas, going door to door, working with rural civil society institutions, etc
  7. - Was then evaluated on all of this in what they call a PDMS, where you have to prove everything you did, including pictures of you attending every event you say you did, signed forms with your name on it from the meetings, etc. This is a very grueling interview and one that PR`s are now subjected to regularly.
  8. - All PR candidates (including existing councilors) now have to go through the electoral college. The Electoral College in my city considered of about 50 people. Made up of DA party members, some MP`s, some members of civil society (like a local pastor, chairs of the ratepayers associations, etc etc).

    This is actually your first real interview to become a councillor. The other interviews and tests where just to be a potential candidate. At the start of this process there were still about 100 or so people applying. In this first electoral college you are called in from a waiting room outside, and you stand in front of these people. You are then asked to speak about yourself and why you are applying for 3-5 min. After this you are asked a set of 5 questions and some of these questions are simple like, “can you tell us the party principles and what they mean to you?” and others more complicated, “What do you think is the most important piece of local government legislation in regulating local government in context of the constitution”. You are expected to give at least a 3 min response to each question.

    The members of the electoral college then each score your answer and how well they think you answered. All those scored answers are then tallied up and then put with your PDMS score.
  9. - The top people from this get to repeated this process two more times. You are given an additional PDMS and another ideological test, as well as a general knowledge test.
  10. - You get to the final interview. In my case Im applying to be a ward councilor for the ward my family (most of my extended family are in my ward). There were about 4 of us left. In the final interview you are not asked to start off with with introducing yourself. You given 10 minutes to prepare a 5 min public speech. A computer randomly selects 3 questions and from those 3 questions you need to pick 1. After 10 minutes you go in and deliver the public speech. Its worded like, “You are a councilor ...I had to remove this because people are still doing the tests

    You then get asked 10 questions which you need to give a 3-5 minute response to each question. Again, scores are tallied, and the top applicants get chosen from this score.

Okay, this is as far as I am in the interview process. i think that's that, and they will let the winning candidates (which means you will be the DA candidate to contest a ward for them) know at the end of the month :/

The application and vigorous and challenging and not only are you tested a lot, but you also learn a lot. The Job Description to be a Councilor for the Democratic Alliance is 8 pages long. Eventually when you get to this part of the process. You are more nervous about getting the position and been able to fulfill expectations than you are of not getting through. 

Right now myself and hundreds of other candidates are waiting with nervous energy for the incredibly hard task we have ahead of us of rebuilding this country, looking after our constituencies and giving the people of South Africa the service delivery they deserve. 

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