ADDRESS BY KWAZULU-NATAL COGTA MEC SIHLE ZIKALALA DURING THE SALGA KZN PROVINCIAL MEMBERS ASSEMBLY, UMFOLOZI CASINO, EMPANGENI, 04 NOVEMBER 2022
Programme Director, Cllr. DT Memela;
MECs and MPLs in our midst;
The Leadership of SALGA;
Mayors and Councillors;
Our Traditional Leaders Present;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
SALGA CONTINUES TO SUPPORT LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND INSPIRE SERVICE DELIVERY
It is an absolute joy and immense honour to join the KwaZulu-Natal SALGA Provincial Assembly taking place on the shores of the majestic and beautiful uMhlathuze.
Established in November 1996, this prestigious body, the South African Local Government Association, has continued to champion the mandate of local government and has lived to its motto of “inspiring service delivery”.
Given our history of racial segregation and spatial inequities, SALGA continues to play a crucial role in positioning the local sphere of government to achieve spatial justice, social cohesion, and sustainable development through its unrelenting focus on integrated management of space, economies as well as people.
For nearly three decades, this autonomous organisation has successfully advanced the interests of local government, improved the profile of local government, and fought against encroachment within a vibrant framework of intergovernmental relations (IGR).
We recognise, for instance, that it was throughSALGA’s efforts that the number of seats for local government delegates was expanded in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
Thanks to your organisation and the NCOP, South Africa has now observed Local Government Week for a decade since 2012.
Your brainchild, Local Government Week, was initiated to foster shared responsibility for service delivery and to facilitate the coordination role between local government and other spheres of the state machinery. Through it, we are also able to advance the principles of subsidiarity with regard to powers and functions in the delivery of services within a differentiated model.
Just like during the first local government week a decade ago, the government continues to use the week to pay attention to issues of alignment and coordination of planning and budgets between the three spheres of government. Today, this work is part of our daily mantra as we vigorously pursue it through the District Development Model (DDM) which is an anchor programme of the 6th Administration.
It was also the government’s collaboration with SALGA that led to the introduction of wall-to-wall municipalities and the re-design of the local government system as a developmental agent envisaged by the White Paper on Local Government.
This Assembly that you are holding once again underlines your interest and contribution to promoting the sector through knowledge sharing and building technical capacity to make local government truly impactful in changing the lives of communities.
SALGA IN CONTEMPORARY SA STRUGGLES
Compatriots, as COGTA, we wish to affirm our appreciation of SALGA’s voice with all the developments and evolution of local government.
As we renew our country and fight wastage, incompetence, and corruption, we are pleased to know that SALGA remains an actor in the fight against corruption and poor service delivery.
We are paying attention to your suggestions on building ideal municipalities, forging climate-resilient municipalities, and on our path to just energy transition. We appreciate the research you are conducting and the proposals you are making on improving water security, clean energy provision, uninterrupted electricity supply, and post-apartheid smart cities development. In this regard, please allow me to congratulate SALGA’s President, Cllr Bheke Stofile for being elected as one of the 5 Co-Presidents of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).
As South Africa comes to terms with the reality of coalition governments, we support the views expressed by SALGA through President Stofile that all efforts must be made to ensure that coalition governments do not result in communities struggling to receive quality services on time. We support him and SALGA on the need to make coalition agreements transparent. As KZN COGTA, we are already engaging the national government on how in KwaZulu-Natal we could implement SALGA’s suggestions on making coalition agreements transparent and inclusive within an agreed framework that prioritises the delivery of services.
ON THE BROAD THEMES OF THE KZN SALGA ASSEMBLY
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please allow me to commend the KwaZulu-Natal SALGA leadership for organising this successful gathering around several important themes.
We applaud you for reminding us through the choice of your subject matter and focus that local government touches people’s lives in more ways than one. All participants will be inspired and encouraged to expand the meaning of local government since it touches every facet of our lives.
It is this assembly that has said that when we say local government is the coalface of service delivery, we are affirming that this sphere of government touches all avenues of our lives and far beyond the critical task of providing basic services like water, electricity, waste removal and decent sanitation.
In this regard, it was pleasing to see SALGA also seize on the question of developing arts and sports infrastructure in communities. This is a correct approach, reminding us of the value of the arts, culture and sports in building social cohesion and positive social values. We cannot overemphasise the importance of this especially when our province and country face worrying levels of crime, substance abuse, and the scourge of gender-based violence. This thinking will help us go far in defeating social ills, advancing positive social values, and creating the model citizen of KwaZulu-Natal who frowns upon patriarchy, toxic masculinity, crime, and violence.
We wish to pay tribute to SALGA’s role in supporting the youth of KwaZulu-Natal to be tech-savvy. This is in line with our provincial vision of making our province a leader in ICT development and innovation. In this vein, we recognise that in August, SALGA brought together various stakeholders and launched the first Inter-Municipal Technology and Innovation Hub.
As COGTA, we stand ready to support initiatives that will ensure that the youth of KwaZulu-Natal, especially those in our rural areas, are not left behind with all the developments associated with robotics, artificial intelligence, as well as the 4th Industrial Revolution. This is a programme that we have begun to support partly through the introduction of robotics in our foundation phase at schools as well as investing in Maths, Science, and Technology Schools. This is a task that can only be successfully executed through strong and sustainable partnerships with the private sector.
We also commend you for ensuring that your discussions and presentations also do not leave behind our important and respected traditional leaders. As COGTA, we are keen to receive your report and recommendation on how collectively we can promote spatial planning that integrates traditional authorities. We are aware that you have explored, for instance, how working better with Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), KwaZulu-Natal could unleash pro-poor rural development. We do not doubt that your proposals will receive greater support from the ITB as well as His Majesty the King who last week at Moses Mabhida Stadium spoke passionately on rural and economic development for KwaZulu-Natal.
FIVE KEY PRIORITIES
As the department of Cogta, we have identified five key areas that need us to work closely with SALGA and other 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. Acts of criminality must be stamped out.
We also understand that before any form of protection is given to a councillor or municipal official comprehensive risk assessments need to be done by the competent agency of the state which in this case is the South African Police Service, we have noted the concerns raised by municipalities on the issue of the slow turnaround in the conducting of these assessments and we commit ourselves to work closely with our police to expedite these processes.
Professionalization of local government
The second issue is the professionalization of the sphere of local government within our province. This is an important issue which requires all of us to pay close attention to it, especially since local government is at the coal face of service delivery.
Our communities rely on the services rendered by municipalities, which means that a dysfunctional municipality has disastrous consequences for residents.
This also speaks to the calibre of people that become councillors, we need to have councillors who 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.
Political parties also have a responsibility on this matter as they have a responsibility to ensure that criminals do not infiltrate their political systems and cause chaos at the local government level.
Building Capacity to deliver
We have to help our municipalities to build their capacity to deliver service to our communities as outlined in the constitution. This is both a simple and a complex task, there are low-hanging fruits which our municipalities can deliver on however we do not wish for them to only focus on these low-hanging fruits but to see them also building their capacity to deal with complex issues which are of a strategic nature which show foresight and vision.
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.
The fourth issue is community participation. It is disheartening 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. This issue speaks to the issue we previously mentioned on the professionalization of local government, as we need councillors who know what it means to occupy these positions.
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.
Programme director, having outlined these steps that we believe will assist us to turn the situation around in our 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.
AREAS OF COLLABORATION WITH SALGA KZN
As Cogta we look forward to working closely with SALGA KZN in the common areas of interest such as:
- Improving the provision of water in our municipalities.
- Improving spatial planning
- The provision of service delivery through the District Development Model
- Strengthening the effectiveness of the Masakhane Campaign which calls for residents, businesses and government to pay for municipal services. Those that fail to pay for these services are compromising the financial viability of municipalities and their ability to continue providing services.
As a department, we have taken a tough stance on several issues, such as municipalities having unfunded budgets, which is a contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act. We have taken a principled decision that we will not condone such budgets and that municipalities will have to comply with the law and only pass funded budgets.
We also have zero tolerance for the issue of employees having the relevant qualifications for the role they occupy within our municipalities. To this effect, we are roping in the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the Public Service Commission as we have noticed several instances where people are appointed into positions for which they do not have the relevant qualifications.
We are also not comfortable with municipalities that have become employment agencies at the expense of delivery on their core mandate which is to bring services to our communities. We are of the view that municipalities should not spend more than 35% on staff wages, this is a healthy ratio and allows the municipality to dedicate 65% of its resources to expenditure on capital projects which is their core mandate.
Our municipalities must not be found taking over the functions of other provincial and national departments they have to invest in their core mandate in line with the resources that they have been given.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us answer the call to serve.
On behalf of COGTA, we invite you all again to rise to the challenge of our day and contribute in the creation of the KwaZulu-Natal of our dreams
In all that we do, let us be inspired by the aspirations of our people, in particular the poor and vulnerable of our land.
We cannot afford to go to bed without concern or worry that many of our young people are without hope and languishing on our streets.
We must not tolerate corruption, poor service delivery, and theft from the poor. Those that cheat the state, there must be consequences for them so that people understand that local government and the public service is not a refuge for thieves or those who drag their feet when they have to serve our communities.
As COGTA, we pray that we all realise the huge responsibility that we carry in transforming society and restoring the dignity of our people.
We dare not linger!
It is in our hands!
And may SALGA continue to inspire service delivery in KwaZulu-Natal!
Asisukume sakhe iKwaZulu-Natal!
I thank you!