The Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Honourable Des van Rooyen addressed the SALGA National Conference as it celebrated the 20th anniversary, at an event that was held at Sandton Convention Centre yesterday (30 November 2016). The Minister congratulated the past and current leadership of SALGA for ably steering the ship of local government through over the past two decades. He also acknowledged the current campaign of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children and urged members as leaders in the local government sector to ensure protection of the most vulnerable.
“SALGA has played a vital role in transforming the local government sector from its apartheid past, to one that represents and honours all of South Africa’s citizens. As government, we recognize that the role of SALGA as the embodiment of organised local government is critical in a developmental state, a State in which government’s programme of action and policies are largely driven and implemented at local level in the 257 municipalities, representing 56 million citizens,” said Minister van Rooyen.
I am proud to say that over the past 20 years you have fulfilled this mandate with growing effectiveness, including in leading by example of good governance with four successive clean audits as recognized by the Auditor-General. This has been coupled with a constantly increasing achievement of your annual targets, some of which the department is glad and proud to have worked with you on. SALGA recently spearheaded the Integrated Councillor Induction Programme, following the recent local government elections.
The Minister also congratulated the current chairperson of SALGA, Mr Parks Tau who was elected as the President of the United Cities and Local Government, the umbrella body for local government around the world. Minister van Rooyen says although President Tau was congratulated in Quito last month shortly after he was elected in Bogota, there is also need to congratulate him again in this Conference because it is a significant achievement for him personally and for the leadership role of the country in general.
Our gathering occurs at a vital moment in this century’s history. Last year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reinforced the importance of the role of cities during this century.
SDG 11 is to “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”
Among the targets SDG 11 sets out are:
- “By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums
- By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons
- By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries”
These targets inform the work at municipalities. These are the targets that should occupy our minds as we seek new ways of achieving them.
The Minister said that another reason that marks an important moment in history for us, is that we have just emerged from the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, or Habitat 3 as it is commonly known. The conference has laid out the New Urban Agenda, which sets global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development and is effectively a roadmap for the next 20 years. The New Urban Agenda will serve as a blueprint for a South African implementation plan to be jointly developed by all stakeholders.
“Also, Cabinet passed the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) in April this year. The IUDF is South Africa’s plan for our urban future. Apartheid spatial planning continues to dominate our urban landscape and in many instances determines the future of the majority of our citizens. When you live far from work, schools, centres of economic activity and education, your ability to lift yourselves out of poverty is greatly reduced. The IUDF aims to create a future that is socially and economically inclusive. For the IUDF to achieve its goals will require the input and buy-in of all stakeholders, from local government actors, national and provincial government departments, community-based organisations, community members, planners, academics, and the private sector,” said the Minister.
The Back to Basics (B2B) programme continues to underpin the process of change we want to see in the local government sector. The 10-Point Plan that was implemented earlier this year marks the second phase of the B2B programme. We urge all municipalities to adhere to the pillars and prescripts of the B2B programme, especially with regard to monitoring and evaluation.
Working together we hosted a very successful August 2016 local government elections. The elections were a further demonstration of the maturing of our democratic system. We are working on resolving several issues emanating from those elections. We do need to work more closely to meet the Constitutional Court ruling with regard to the Independent Electoral Commission and verifiable addresses. Voters live in your municipal areas and you should be working towards ensuring that everyone has a verifiable address.
The elections also resulted in 27 hung municipalities. There have been scenes of disruption in several municipalities and some municipalities are being rendered dysfunctional because of inconclusive outcomes. Supporting municipalities based on their location within the space economy as well as the impact of urbanisation and regional economics is both vital and necessary. Metropolitan municipalities need to be supported in ways that are different to non-metropolitan municipalities.
We urge SALGA to accelerate its programme of differentiated support. A 20-year milestone also serves as a moment of reflection. It is essential that we look back on how we have enabled, or otherwise, the ability of SALGA to execute its mandate. The starting point would be to strengthen SALGA in various ways. SALGA has managed its limited finances quite well as indicated in the various annual reports as well as by the Auditor General. However, it could deliver better, especially on representing the sector in the IGR forums, if it were funded differently.
In this respect, partnerships with SALGA, the Municipal Demarcation Board, the Financial and Fiscal Commission, and various sector departments are already established through the Steering Committee for the Reconfiguration of District Government, and consultative processes are already underway.
As you may be aware the Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers has approved the once-off gratuity to non-returning councillors. However, the Commission has expressed its reservations with regard to this payment and we need to ensure that we plan for a future without this. We presume 2016 to be the last time that this payment is effected. SALGA must accelerate issue of a social plan for councillors.
I therefore wish you a very successful Conference and look forward to working with you in taking the outcomes forward to build a formidable and people centred local government sector over the next five years in our quest to improve the quality of life and inclusivity of our society.
May you continue to Inspire Service Delivery!
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