With the 2021 local government elections only days away, this is the last stretch of the term of local government whose representatives were elected into office in 2016. As such, this is a good time to reflect on what KZN municipalities have achieved during this time and where more work is needed in the next term of local government which will effectively commence next month.
“We have just concluded our second assessment of municipalities in KZN, the first such assessment having taken place just after the 2019 provincial elections. The highlights of this latest assessment must be shared with the outgoing local government representatives and for the benefit of future ones,” says KZN MEC for Cooperative and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).
For this purpose, KZN Cogta hosted an engagement with the outgoing local government representatives in the province. The engagement also featured national Minister of Cogta Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala who both addressed the delegates. Some of the successes achieved in KZN municipalities during the 2016-2021 term of local government include:
- Despite the current term of local government starting with an increased number of coalition and hung municipalities and despite the beginning of this term experiencing instability in 14 municipal councils, we are ending this term on a high note with only 4 municipalities that experience instability in their councils.
- Section 106 investigations have been concluded in more than 20 municipalities. There are municipalities that have moved rapidly and implemented the recommendations made in the Section 106 reports, even to the extent of laying criminal charges.
- There is also marked improvement in municipal compliance with legislated timeframes set for the adoption of the IDPs, Budgets, Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plans as well as the timeous signing of Performance Agreements for senior managers and submission of Annual Financial Statements and Annual Performance Reports to the Auditor General.
- Many KZN municipalities are now filling their vacant senior management positions quickly to avoid creating a vacuum in their administration. As a result, the vacancy rate across the province’s municipalities has been reduced to 12.77% as at September 2021.
- We have overseen a dramatic reduction in municipal debt owed to Eskom, leaving only 3 municipalities with long outstanding debt, namely Newcastle, Ulundi and Mpofana. These municipalities have, however, been supported to facilitate agreements on payment plans with the power utility.
- Fewer of our municipalities are now reliant on consultants to compile their Annual Financial Statements because they have actively developed internal capacity throughout the current term to perform this function internally.
- There has also been a marked improvement in municipal grant spending, with only uMkhanyakude district failing to spend 100% of its Municipal Infrastructure Grant by June 2021.
- Infrastructure backlogs have marginally decreased across the municipal sphere compared to the pre-democracy era. This is largely due to the broad availability of infrastructure grants and improvements in their expenditure. The availability of the EPWP grant has also been instrumental in addressing local unemployment challenges in municipalities.
- KZN Cogta has channeled significant financial investments into Small Town Rehabilitation, Community Service Centres, LED projects, and water and electricity projects. These interventions have undisputedly improved the lives of beneficiary communities while also improving the economic prospects of entire regions of KZN that had previously been neglected.
- More than 50% of the province’s districts now have Disaster Management Centres and those outstanding have allocated budgets to either complete their centres or begin their construction. This has improved our capacity to mitigate the impact of disasters significantly across the board even we face increasing environmental challenges due to climate change.
- KZN Cogta has also supported municipalities through the procurement of yellow plant equipment which has been distributed to benefit each district and its family of local municipalities. This equipment is addressing the most urgent issues of infrastructure maintenance while it is also saving municipalities money that would have gone into procuring it by themselves.
“The current term of local government has seen significant improvements in the way our municipalities are governed, institutionally supported, financially managed and in the way they deliver services to communities. Many of these improvements were made possible by the hands-on support provided by the KZN Provincial Government in general and KZN Cogta in particular,” said Hlomuka.
The new term of local government, which will effectively commence next month once the results of the 2021 local government elections are declared, will be built on solid foundations of the previous successes and KZN Cogta will continue to work closely with the newly elected municipal governments to ensure that the province’s local government institutions prosper in the years ahead.
Issued by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs