Address by Minister Des Van Rooyen at the 2016 Municipal Demarcation Board Conference

Posted on Posted in Minister Des Van Rooyen

23 June 2016

Boksburg

 

Programme Director, Mr Xolile George,

Deputy Speaker, National Assembly, Honourable Lechesa Tsenoli

Chair of the Finance Standing Committee, National Assembly, Honourable Yunus Carrim,

Other Members of Parliament

Deputy Minister Cogta, Honourable Andries Nel

MEC Cogta Limpopo, Ms Makhurupetje Makoma

Speaker of the Free State Provincial Legislature, Ms Mamiki Qabathe,

National House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Winston Themba Mavundla

His Excellency, Ambassador Lamarron, Kaanto of Kenya

MDB Chairperson, Ms Jane Thupana

Chair SALGA, Councillor Thabo Manyoni

Acting Chair FFC, Mr Bongani Khumalo

Statistician-General, Mr Pali Lehohla

Mayors,

Speakers,

Municipal Managers,

 

Good Morning, Sanibonani, Goeie More,

 

These are exciting times to be involved in the local government space.

With the election just a few weeks away, yesterday we officiated at the release of the State of the Cities Report, and the unfortunate events unfolding in Tshwane, Vuwani, as well as other cities, presents us with both a crisis and an opportunity.

 

These events occur as we celebrate 16 years of democratic local government – a system that works – and the 40th anniversary of the massacre of our people in 1976.

 

Looking around parts of the country as our townships burn, it would seem that nothing has changed since then.

 

You would be wrong to assume so.

 

We’ve come a long way from 1976, when this system of local government was used as an instrument of oppression.

 

Today, local government is in the hands of all the people.

 

This is a government by the people and for the people.

 

The State of the Cities Report, released yesterday, is another feather in our cap.

 

It tracks the trajectory of development over the last 15 years of democratic government.

 

Importantly, it tells of our efforts to deconstruct the Apartheid City and create a new future and better life for all South Africans.

 

The 2016 Report focuses on cities as effective drivers of local and national development and the need for all actors to work together. It also adds a new dimension to our exertions.

 

Which, brings us to today’s Municipal Demarcation Board’s (MDB) conference on “Reviewing the Past and Mapping the Future.”

 

I’m glad that we do have a cross-section of the various role-players in the local government sector, represented here today, as outlined by the programme director.

 

This includes the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Chair of the Finance Committee, who are previous Minister and Deputy Minister of Cogta, respectively, as well as our mayors, municipal managers, academia and traditional authorities.

 

We do have all the bases covered.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

After 300 years of colonisation and 50 years of apartheid, nobody said that democracy is going to be easy.

 

We are not going to tell lies, or claim easy victories.

 

Our roles as politicians, officials, local government practitioners and leaders in our respective fields are being tested to their limits.

 

Today’s conference goes some way in addressing the challenges we face.

 

The Municipal Demarcation Board was established in 1999, after the enactment of the

 

Prior to that the demarcation function was distributed between provincial demarcation boards and their MECs.

 

The MDB’s establishment was an important step in deepening South Africa’s democracy by entrusting the functions of demarcation to an independent body, that is above the cut-and-thrust of everyday politics.

 

We are glad to say that the MDB has fulfilled this role admirably.

 

Even though this has not always been in our favour.

 

You may remember that of the 34 municipal boundary determinations we requested last year, only 13 were approved.

 

Nevertheless, we appreciate and affirm the role of the MDB as a constitutionally independent authority responsible for the determination of municipal boundaries.

 

You have our full support.

 

We also commend the MDB for its role in the evolution of our system of local government over the years.

 

We remember how the MDB worked intensely soon after its formation, between 1999 and 2000, to create wall-to-wall municipalities in order for the first truly democratic local government elections to be held.

 

We applaud you for the good work that you did.

 

The country went from 843 local structures to 284 municipalities, literally overnight.

 

This has now been reduced to 278 and will change to 257 municipalities, come the 3rd of August.

 

Prior to the 2011 local government elections the MDB made a number of vital decisions.

This included the establishment of two more metropolitan municipalities;

 

the disestablishment of the district management areas;

 

and the creation of district municipalities with three or more local municipalities.

 

This process as you know has been fraught with challenges.

 

From 2000 communities have expressed the desire to belong to provinces that were perceived as having the resources and capability to deliver services.

 

The continued refinement of municipal boundaries now face additional hurdles such as community and political interests that fear the loss of power and services.

 

Vuwani is a case in point.

 

As the Cogta Ministry we are still contending with how to deal with municipalities that are simply not financially viable.

 

I hope FFC will help to clarify the discourse on what is a financially viable municipalities.

 

Also of concern to us is the creation of further Metro Municipalities and how to achieve this in the most optimal manner for all.

 

As we seek to reduce the number of municipalities to 257, we are still grappling with the transitional arrangements for the newly amalgamated or re-determined municipalities.

 

A National Demarcation Transition Committee as well as provincial committees have been established.

 

The Committees ensure that matters relating to the amalgamation, such as bylaws and policies; human resources; finance (including the rationalisation of billing and IT systems, asset registers); the adoption of a revised Integrated Development Plan; as well as the naming of new municipalities and the location of council chambers proceed efficiently and in accordance with the law.

 

While some provinces are progressing well in the amalgamation process, one or two are struggling.

 

As part of our efforts towards a smoother process we have ensured that all stakeholders, including communities, are kept well-informed of these developments.

 

The matters in Vuwani have further highlighted, for both us and the MDB, of the need to engage in more meaningful participation with communities.

 

We cannot engage in consultation for mere compliance purposes.

 

We need to re-examine how to really involve communities from the get-go and not allow our processes to be hijacked by individuals with their own agendas.

 

Distinguished guests,

 

Our legislative programme for this financial year will see us processing amendments to the Municipal Structures Act.

 

These amendments relate in the main, to improving the administration and management of local government elections.

 

After looking at the suggested amendments, we need a comprehensive set of amendments to address challenges, after proper consultation.

 

We may also consider possible amendments to legislation that may emanate from this conference.

 

In April this year Cabinet approved the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).

 

The IUDF sets out to unravel the apartheid spatial legacy that still blots our urban landscape and create cities that are inclusive, resilient and liveable.

 

Much of the focus of the panel presentations and discussions is on the relationship between advancing spatial transformation and the financial viability of municipalities through the municipal demarcation process.

 

The comprehensiveness of the capacity assessments undertaken by the MDB to inform the MEC adjustment process also needs attention.

 

This process has been under extensive review.

 

Now is a timely opportunity for the Conference to investigate some of the main recommendations for extending the scope of such reviews.

 

We would benefit from revisiting the democratic development project for local government in terms of the appropriateness and location of the powers and functions they have been legislated to perform.

 

We may need to consider revisiting the structural and institutional positioning of the two-tier system of local government, before further advancing the debate towards a new model for comprehensive capacity assessments.

 

Participants,

 

Let me thank all of you for your participation in the MDB Conference, despite what I’m sure are busy schedules.

 

We view this conference with the same importance as you.

 

Both my colleague, Deputy Minister Nel and the Acting Director-General Ntate Sigidi as well as other staff members, both past and present I’m told, are also committed to participate in some of the discussions that are set to take place.

 

We wish you well in your deliberations over the next two days.

 

I thank you.