SPEAKING POINTS FOR COGTA MEC SIHLE ZIKALALA DURING HIS ENGAGEMENT WITH MSUNDUZI STAKEHOLDERS – TOWN HALL, 23 NOVEMBER 2022
Representatives of Business, Religious and All Civic Organisations;
Members of the Public;
Government Officials present;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a pleasure and an honour to meet with you once more on a platform such as this one.
We are gathered today, at a key moment in our country and for our city. As the provincial government, we recognise the important role that the KwaZulu-Natal Capital City in the life of our province and this community. It is for this reason that we have chosen to keep a close eye on what is happening in this historic city because we are deeply invested in its rejuvenation and return to its former glory.
We use former glory advisedly knowing that the city’s needs have expanded since 1994 because it had to be an inclusive city that is a home to all, black and white, rich and poor, urban and rural. And so, as we reimagine the rebirth of Pietermaritzburg, we have to envision a city that plans for rapid urbanisation, population growth, and indeed more demand for basic services.
Many of you will remember that we have had numerous engagements with you on the condition of the municipality and the steps that need to be taken to get this municipality where it belongs.
We acknowledge that the municipality is not where it is supposed to be, but we have noted improvements which we hope will be built on.
It also does not escape us that we find ourselves in a society that has high unemployment and rising crime levels which exacerbate the challenges in this municipality as key infrastructure is constantly vandalised by criminals. While law enforcement must rise to the occasion and arrest criminals who steal and vandalise infrastructure, this is a challenge that requires the mobilisation of all sectors of society. In our homes, communities, places of work – everywhere – we must have zero tolerance for law breakers and those sabotaging our future. We must, therefore, not glamorise crime and protect thugs whether they are our neighbours, friends, or powerful individuals in communities.
Purpose of the Day
Ladies and Gentlemen, you will remember that many years ago, the government launched the Masakhane campaign, which was aimed at fostering closer ties between communities and institutions such as municipalities.
Through this programme, municipalities would be transparent with residents and earn their trust and win their confidence by showcasing the work they are doing and the steps that need to be taken by the residents in support of municipal efforts.
In the budget policy speech for the 2022/23 financial year, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs committed to relaunching this campaign in the province’s municipalities. Given the importance of Msunduzi, it was chosen as the first place to launch the campaign in 2022. We will be using much of tomorrow here in Msunduzi to stage the launch and invite communities and other stakeholders to work closely with government to rebuild this municipality and its communities.
We hope that through the rejuvenation of the Masakhane Campaign, we can continue to educate, inform and create awareness among our residents about the need for them to pay for services that are rendered by municipalities.
In our province, billions of rands are owed to municipalities by businesses, residents and even some government departments and entities.
We also aim through this programme to sharpen systems that are already in place that are aimed at keeping our cities clean, safe and hospitable.
Back to basics
One of the pillars that this campaign is built on Sound Financial Management and Service Delivery.
We understand the responsibility that the municipalities have of using the limited resources given to them in a manner that is above board.
We have witnessed many instances where trust in municipalities is eroded based on poor decisions that are taken by councils or their failure to deal with corruption and mismanagement.
This is an issue that we will not turn a blind eye to, we are serious about this matter and several legislative changes have given more powers to the Auditor General to recoup any irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure from Accounting Officers if they fail to take the appropriate actions.
On the economic front, we wish to see Msunduzi taking its place as a light industrial production hub. In order for this to happen, we will require the municipality to identify key areas that it can focus on such as basic services, security, ease of doing business and strong support for light industrial production.
Key Programme of the Masakhane Campaign
As we meet this evening, we wish therefore to invite you to be a part of it. Part of our exercise this evening is to register your issues as key stakeholders so that our collective responses to your issues are addressed in a more systematic way. We must all hold each other accountable and have monitoring mechanism while identifying people we can trust to follow up on the priority of issues and our pragramme of action.
Through the Masakhane campaign, we aim to:
Address outcomes of the municipal assessments which indicate disparities and poor public participation functions in certain municipalities, as well as very poor revenue collection and non-payment for services.
Make it possible for all Councilors to conduct regular consultation and feedback meetings with their constituencies during a stipulated period.
Empower local communities with information on their rights and responsibilities, including payment of services rendered by the government.
Encourage local communities to play a meaningful role in the affairs of the municipality to influence decision-making processes.
Bring back public confidence in the elected representatives in the local government space, to overcome a sense of hopelessness in that individual members can speak out on what development is required and what is of concern to them.
Facilitate a platform to identify service delivery failures and bottlenecks, in turn, address the worsening public protests which are organized as a result of communities being neglected, ignored and left behind in development programs.
Compatriots, the campaign seeks to:
Improve the quality of relations between the Msunduzi council and its communities. It is important that the council is seen to be listening to the communities and acting on the community’s concerns.
Encourage businesses, government departments, government political office bearers, Councillors, officials and general members of the community to pay for municipal services to address challenges of power cuts and shortage of funds to provide basic and other services.
Conduct mass education on the indigent policy so that elderly people and those who qualify can register and benefit in line with municipalities’ indigent arrangements.
We also appreciate the fact that we cannot do this on our own but need to form a partnership with all stakeholders across the board.
MEC’S FIVE KEY PRIORITIES FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN KZN
As the department of Cogta, we have identified five key areas that need us to work closely with residents and like-minded organisations.
- Stabilisation of the sphere of local government
The priority is for us to stabilise the sphere of local government within our province. The instances of intimidation and murder of public representatives and municipal workers are a blight on our province and demonstrate that there are forces that are hell-bent on compromising the sphere of local government at any cost.
We cannot allow these rogue elements to subvert the democratic gains that we have made within this space. Working together, we can stamp out acts of criminality.
- Professionalization of local government
The second issue is the professionalization of the sphere of local government within our province. Only a meritocratic local sphere of government that values skilled, ethical, and law-abiding public servants can succeed in making local government capable and developmental in its approach. And so, efforts to improve the skills of municipal officials and other public servants is a priority in delivering quality, dignified, basic services to communities. Lack of skills and professionalism contribute to municipality dysfunctionality and disastrous consequences for residents.
We also urge communities to pay attention to the calibre of councillors that they elect. These need to be men and women who driven only by the passion to selflessly serve and improving the lives of others. They need to understand the seriousness of the position they occupy and the responsibilities that they carry. If this is not looked into, we run the risk of having the stature of our municipalities undermined and the public losing confidence.
As political parties, we also carry an enormous responsibility of ensuring that criminals do not infiltrate our political systems and cause chaos or start looting people’s resources at the local government level.
- Building Capacity to deliver
As CoGTA, we have undertaken to help our municipalities to build their capacity to deliver service to our communities as outlined in the constitution. The District Development Model (DDM) which we have begun to implement seeks to bring all 3 spheres of government to resolve service delivery challenges. We are providing various forms of technical support to help municipalities improve delivery of services.
It is clear that in this day and age, we cannot have our municipalities absent when we are talking about issues of the economy, electricity generation, and strategic partnerships with the private sector on creating new industries and protecting those that exist. In this regard, we again we invite the business community to partner with CoGTA and the Msunduzi Local Municipality to turn around Pietermaritzburg and surrounding communities.
- Community Participation
The fourth issue is community participation. It is disheartening and unacceptable to see councillors not convening meetings with their respective communities to update them on the decisions that are being taken in the councils.
This leaves our communities poorer in terms of information and sometimes leads to protests as communities search for answers. The Constitution and various pieces of legislation enjoins municipalities to involve communities in decision making or to consult them when plans like IDPs are for instance drafted. Communities must also stand up and insist on monitoring and evaluation of IDPs and council programmes.
- Mechanism to manage political competition
My fifth point is that our municipalities must have systems that help them to manage the political competition.
While the area of local government is heavily contested terrain there should be areas of common interest and approach for political parties within the respective councils.
We say this because ultimately every councillor in the council represents the interest of the residents and there has to be collaboration on issues that strengthen accountability and protect the integrity of the institution.
Having outlined these steps that we believe will assist us to turn the situation around in Msunduzi and other municipalities, we must add that if we are to succeed, we need all stakeholders to work closely together and to share best practices. This is why gatherings like today’s are so important as we get a chance to cross-pollinate and share experiences.
We wish to assure you as KZN CoGTA that we value your input, time, and commitment to see Msunduzi work to your expectations.
We stand ready to hear you, to craft together with you a programme that we can all own, and most importantly, to make our great city a thriving centre of commerce and citadel of hope again.
This is a task that government alone cannot accomplish.
It is a task that will not only be fixed by courts, threats to boycott also paying for services, or constantly putting Msunduzi under Administration. On the contrary, it requires a mindset shift and new ways of doing things. And so, we are here to work with you to ensure that all your needs are reasonably addressed within agreed time frames so that Msunduzi can again become a place of pride for all who are associated with it.
To win, we should also lend a hand, pay for services, help fight crime, and prevent wastage.
And there must be no opportunity for impunity for officials and councillors who treat the public with disdain or disrespect.
Together Growing KwaZulu-Natal!
I thank you!