Address by Minister Des Van Rooyen at the Official Launch Ceremony of the State of the Cities Report

Posted on Posted in Minister Des Van Rooyen

22 June 2016

Johannesburg

 

Programme Director,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Gauteng Premier,

Executive Mayors,

Chairs and CEOs of SALGA an SACN,

Business and civil society representatives,

 

It is great to be here at the launch of the 2016 State of South African Cities Report. As the CoGTA Ministry, we wholeheartedly welcome the Report. We believe its findings will provide us with greater insights into how to build on our already successful metros.

 

Our congratulations go to the leadership of the South African Cities Network (SACN). I’m glad that you’ve also catered for a full day’s engagement to provide further insight into the report. I’m sure the interaction with Municipal Managers’ brought many elements of the Report to life.

 

Importantly, the Report provides us with some much-needed good news. Often the media latch onto protests and other actions that provide good visuals, without delving any further into a story.

 

We witnessed this recently with the Voter Registration weekends, where despite the fact that voter registration occurred without incident at over 22 000 voting stations, involving 6,6 million voters, the media still focused on the few voting stations where there was violence or some other disruption.

 

Fortunately, we do have good news occurring regularly at our municipalities across the country.

 

How many of you are aware that the population of the City of Johannesburg doubled between 2001 and 2011? Or that the city’s unemployment rate decreased from 37 percent to 25 percent in the corresponding period?

 

Or that household income in Mangaung has more than doubled between 2001 and 2011?

 

Or that our apparently under-performing city of Nelson Mandela Bay has the lowest percentage of informal households than the other cities, having significantly reduced these numbers between 2001 and 2011.

 

These are the often-untold stories that we are glad that the State of the Cities Report is capturing. We further appreciate the new segment in the Report that profiles the different cities and indicates their flagship programmes.

 

I must mention what for me is one of the most exciting developments in this year’s Report, the launch of the SA Cities Open Data Almanac portal. The portal provides a rich pool of evidence that the SACN has gathered over the last 15 years, all of which is available for download. It is also a “living” website that will be updated regularly.

 

An interesting feature is the interactive dashboards that provide time series data related to population, poverty, inequality, economic growth and other indicators. It will now provide a dearth of information on the local government sector that will be easily available to everyone from municipal managers to students and researchers, local government practitioners, as well as citizens and the media. This will go a long way towards demystifying the local government sector and provide various role-players with insight into developments in the local government sphere.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

The State of the Cities Report is vital in that it provides an independent assessment of the state of our nine major cities. In many ways, it tells not only about the state of our cities, but also gives us pointers to the future of our country. The challenges our cities face, and our measures to address these, will determine the future trajectory of our country’s growth.

 

One of these measures is the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF), approved by Cabinet barely two months ago. The IUDF reimagines our urban landscape and takes into account the unique nature of different cities and towns in an effort to capitalise on them.

 

The 2016 State of the Cities Report is a collaborative effort that involves a number of stakeholders in the sector. Like the IUDF, for us to ensure meaningful action on its findings, requires a joint effort. I’m glad that the Presidential Labour Working Group, which met yesterday, has announced the convening of a Jobs Summit.

 

As the Report highlights, for us to optimise the role of cities as drivers of economic growth and job creation, we have to pull together. We will ensure that our cities have a strong representation at the Jobs Summit so we can maximise the impact of job creation initiatives.

 

There is no doubt that growth and job creation should top our agenda. And the role of cities as the drivers of these goals, should be at the forefront of our efforts. To quote the World Bank,

 

“…where economic activity is concentrated, can be the difference between poverty and prosperity, for people as well as countries.”

In 2011, just four city-regions (Gauteng, Cape Town, eThekwini and Nelson Mandela Bay) contained 42% of South Africa’s population. Our largest city regions, in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal will continue to drive future economic growth in South Africa.

 

We believe that our Back to Basics programme, launched in 2014, will provide a sound basis for further economic development. We are already starting to see the results of this, with Stats SA’s Non-Financial Census of Municipalities confirming an increase in service delivery over the last year.

 

We fully subscribe to the Report’s vision of creating cities that are spatially transformed, productive, inclusive and sustainable. We will further examine the Report and work with relevant stakeholders in ensuring that our cities do enhance their role as drivers of local and national development.

 

In closing, let me just add that as we move closer to the elections period, we will witness a rise in tensions, both within and between parties. We remind all citizens that we are in an election period and that acts of violence and intimidation are not going to be tolerated. Let us abide by the Electoral Code of Conduct, irrespective of which political party you belong to. No area should be ungovernable or unreachable. This is an essential element to the holding of free and fair elections, which is a vital step in building the cities we want.

 

I thank you.