LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLICY DIRECTIVE FOR THE SIXTH TERM OF OFFICE
ADDRESS BY HON. SIPHO HLOMUKA
KZN MEC FOR COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS,
BERGVILLE: 21 JUNE 2019
Your Worships, the Mayors;
Head of Department, Mr. Tubane;
Ladies and gentlemen;
All protocol observed
Let me start by thanking the leadership of Okhahlamba Local Municipality for hosting us today and let me extend our heartfelt congratulations to you as our clean audit loadstar. Thank for the hospitality and for flying the flag of our province high.
I am deeply honoured to be afforded an opportunity to engage with the leaders and senior bureaucrats of our most important sphere of government – municipalities. You are the people who are manning the forward trenches in our quest to deliver a better life for all our citizens and it is through this sphere of local government that ordinary people experience government first-hand.
I would like to first and foremost thank the many of you who sent us messages of congratulations and best wishes following our appointment. We had a bit of trepidation as we contemplated the road ahead and the magnitude of the task at hand but your messages of support have given us confidence, warmth, excitement and pride because we now know that we can count on you as our partners on this important journey.
I warmly welcome you and thank you very much for all the positive encouragements.
Yesterday, His Excellency President of the Republic, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, presented his State of the Nation Address, which details a five-year programme of priorities of the sixth administration of the democratically elected government of the country. In his address, the President issued an open invitation to all sectors, especially local government: he said that, collectively, we must grow South Africa and create jobs. These are the new marching orders and part of the renewed mandate for us and this is a new barometer that the citizens will use to measure our performance.
We therefore felt it is very important that we engage early on as the session of the sixth administration gets in motion so that all of us can identify the role we will play in promoting and ensuring the realisation of this national programme of action.
We have all been recently on the ground where we were campaigning in the elections and we heard for ourselves the views and frustrations of ordinary citizens. I think we all agree that this has been the most difficult election because the voters, as we were interacting with them, have been asking difficult questions. Indeed it has become evidently clear that they are and will continue to hold us accountable. The voters have been unequivocal in that they will not give any government a blank cheque; they have put us to yet another test and we dare not fail this test.
The only way we will pass the test is by responding to and delivering on the commitments we have presented to them.
Key to that commitment is that we will have a stable system of local government that is faster in implementing programmes to change the lives of our people.
For this to be achieved, it is critical that we proceed from an identical service delivery script where we are clear about our respective roles and what is expected of all of us as elected public representatives. Unity of purpose is an important ingredient of success. We cannot be pulling in different directions and still expect to succeed. This requires that we must listen to each other, learn from each other and always strive for consensus. Munimec is an important forum for intergovernmental relations in this province and it is also a platform where we must perfect listening to each other, learning from each other and forging consensus.
New Dawn and Khawuleza
We are in this era of the New Dawn where now government has been sent (Thuma Mina) to now implement faster and faster (Khawuleza) a better life to all citizens. Those of us who have been around in the sphere of local government will remember that we started by diagnosing the problems, we then emerged with a turnaround programme, thereafter we went back to basics. The question now is where do we go from here and the answer can only be “implement”! Deliver! Implement faster!
We are in that age where the dust has to be seen flying as we engage in implementation. As we do so, we are acutely aware that we will be building upon the solid foundation laid by many of you, colleagues, including my predecessor, Honourable Nomusa Dube-Ncube and the many generations of councillors and local government practitioners.
We therefore have a critical task ahead to break new ground. This means that we have to urgently respond to the major problem areas that impede the performance of local government and affect ordinary citizens. These include job creation and attracting investment, the land question, striving for greater efficiency in service delivery, responding more quickly to community concerns, speeding up transformation of the apartheid landscape by encouraging more racially-integrated residential areas, increasing capacity via effective management instead of relying on the crisis-driven interventions, improving municipal revenue collection, ensuring that financial commitments are commensurate with resources, and co-ordinating the work of community development officers, municipal councillors and ward committees.
We have to attend to a number of inherent challenges that present stumbling blocks to local government achieving its full developmental potential. Part of this is the problem of uncoordinated planning and implementation. A common complaint of municipalities has been that national and provincial government and state entities implement their programmes in local areas without the full participation, knowledge and input of municipalities.
We have just emerged from the Cabinet Lekgotla which was convened by our Premier, Honourable Sihle Zikalala, and I want to assure you that we have a new vigour and determination to address this long-standing anomaly. It is time that we move beyond just theory towards practice and walk the talk when we say the IDP is our bible of implementation as government. The IDPs have to incorporate what will be implemented by other spheres of government in municipal spaces. We are going to use all the available intergovernmental relations platforms to make sure that departments and entities provide resources for the programmes they committed themselves to on the IDP. We want them to do this on time and not in the last quarter of the financial year when they have to clean their books as they fear under-expenditure.
A writer once said that local government in South Africa at times acts like “a chicken whose legs have been tied for too long”.
In other words, even when the chains that bind the chicken’s legs are loosed, it remains at a loss for what to do with its newfound freedom. This descriptive analogy apparently refers to the failure of local government to harness its newfound power in post-apartheid South Africa and to claim its rightful position as the driver of development at the local level, and instigator of bottom-up growth and progress, which is meant to shape and transform our society. In this era we want to see local government fortifying its role as a service provider of choice and not acting like a poor cousin of national and provincial government.
For this to happen, we have to ensure that we have the correct capacity and we are able to deliver. The common concern that is often raised is that municipalities are under-capacitated. This we must address speedily because after 19 years in the life of local government, we should not be making such excuses. Critics argue that the challenges are as a result of placing the major burden of responsibility for the delivery of social services, in large measure, on the weakest level of government: municipal or local government. Our task in this era will be to change this state of affairs.
To reclaim the lost confidence, we have to attend to the issues of how we manage the resources of our municipalities. The latest audit reports from the Auditor-General indicate that as a province we received only one clean audit, which is here at Okhahlamba Municipality. This is indicative of the work that lies ahead of us. I am sure that, as we are about to close the books and prepare the annual financial statements, this picture is going to change.
Equally we have to rise to the challenge of consumer municipal debt which I am advised is now standing at some R14-billion and increasing. We have a challenge now where some municipalities are on the road to defaulting on their responsibilities, such as Eskom. This is an area of grave concern and we have to mount a serious campaign to persuade our residents to pay for services.
This should start by ensuring that our billing departments send out accurate and up-to-date accounts to ratepayers.
Our government is currently formulating how deal with the challenge of land reform and the operative word, once again, is “implement”. As local government, we need to identify our role in this and determine how we can assist our partners in the national and provincial government in ensuring that title deeds are restored to all rightful owners of land within our respective municipal jurisdictions. As the new MEC for Cogta in KZN, I would like to see our sphere of local government taking the front seat in the regard and our municipalities have a range of tools they can use to speed up land reform. Let us, for instance, deploy our existing structures, such as CDWs and municipal War Rooms, in identifying land reform beneficiaries and let us use our muscle to facilitate the legal procedures in fast-tracking this government initiative on the ground working with the Department of Human Settlement.
Job Creation and Working Economy
Another message that came very strongly out of the State of the Nation yesterday was the urgency in creating jobs and improving the resilience of our economy. We sometimes forget that the bulk of economic activity takes place in municipal spaces. This is where we need to work to improve the state of our economy. If we are to improve the overall economic growth of the province, we have to start in individual municipalities.
We need to mobilise businesses and create conditions where business people can invest and thrive. No business is going to invest in a municipality that is dysfunctional, disorganised or a by-word for non-efficiency and red tape. We need to attend t infrastructure and aesthetic appeal of our municipalities. They must be clean and attractive. We must support township and rural economies through SMMes so that we create a generation of job creators, not mere job seekers especially among young people. We must tap into the opportunities that the new technological revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing. To achieve this, we need a clear vision that is tailor-made for the needs of each municipality, that takes into account local strengths and weaknesses that harnesses the local potential.
Cost Containment Measures
We still find ourselves in a situation where the province is impacted negatively by a constrained economic climate and the new Premier, Honourable Sihle Zikalala has made it clear that the cost-cutting measures the Provincial Government introduced to improve our finances must stay in place. The cost-containment measures now formally extend to municipalities and what this means is that we all have to remain prudent in spending our finances, prepare for budget cuts and reprioritisation. Against this background, we must still do our work effectively with fewer resources, managing them effectively and receiving value for money. We are in this together and we must encourage each other as we adhere to our respective cost containment measures.
Need for Stability
I believe that, going forward, we should be more proactive in raising the red flags before things deteriorate too far for us to take quick remedial action. One of the prerequisites of well-run municipalities and traditional institutions is that they must enjoy high levels of stability. We appeal that we stop engaging in power games and occupy ourselves more with services to the community. We need to create a legacy of our work and not be remembered for maintaining the status quo in our municipalities. We are almost three years into the era of local government, we need to take stock of the work we have done since we assumed office. Is it a record we are proud of? If not, lets use the time to catch up and refocus.
Professionalism and Integrity
The people of South Africa have made it very clear in the 2019 elections as to what they expect of their elected public representatives. They have reminded us that we are servants of the people from whom they expect efficient and professional service. I appeal to all of you to perform your duties and functions in a manner that put people first and with professionalism and integrity as your ultimate values to live up to these expectations. We have all been given people’s trust and we cannot betray it. Integrity, in particular, is a very important currency, colleagues. You can do many good things and commit just one mistake to undo all your integrity. Once lost, reputation for integrity can easily be lost forever.
Even as we ourselves do what is right, we must also be driven by courage to prevent or report any corrupt practices that we observe as these will ultimately reflect badly on all of us. After all, we are all part of the sphere of local government and we do not want to be painted by the same brush if some of us are involved in any form of corruption. Let us all be clear: corrupt practices are going to be punished without any fear or favour. As Cogta, we are well equipped to conduct forensic investigations into all reported instances of fraud, corruption and maladministration in municipalities. Our past record in this area speaks for itself.
As a former civil servant, I would like to implore all of you that we must work in a business-oriented manner and always put people first as Batho Pele principles guide us. We must be functional, efficient and effective. Without these attributes, the sphere of local government in KZN will falter.
As we conclude this opening address, we would like to reiterate our longstanding wish from Cogta’s side that the communication between you in municipalities and us in the department is always smooth and productive. We would also like to impress upon you that Munimec is primarily a forum for municipalities to raise issues that affect them. Cogta is merely the convener of these meetings. We would therefore appeal to you to take full advantage of this forum and bring issues for discussion at Munimec at your own initiative. We are aware that in the past, the vast majority of Munimec agenda items originated with Cogta and this may have given a false impression that we are in charge of this body when Munimec is in fact a cooperative arrangement.
On a related note, we would also like to sound a note of concern about the functionality of our inter-governmental relations. In the past, too many IGR meetings were being cancelled at the last minute and some meetings that did take place were not quorate to take decisions. Needless to say, this has impacted negatively on decision making and one consequence of this have been delayed or entirely hampered service delivery projects, particularly at district level. Our appeal to you today – as we start from a clean slate – is to afford our IGR structures the seriousness they deserve.
We look forward to learning from you, working with you and improving the lives of communities together with you. I will be embarking on a tour of all municipalities in the various regions of KZN so that we all are ready to sing from the same hymn book.
I wish to thank all of you for making time to travel from all over the province to attend this Munimec. Our deepest gratitude cannot be expressed through words but we will forever be grateful for your presence and for all the ideas, knowledge and information you are going to share with us. I wish you the best for the entire journey of the sixth term of democratic government that lies ahead of all of us. Let us grow South Africa together!
I thank you!
For more information contact: KZN Cogta spokespersons Lennox Mabaso, 082 884 2403; or Senzelwe Mzila, 082 474 1882