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Realising National Priorities Through Back to Basics

The 3RD Presidential Local Government Summit convened under the theme of  “Transforming Municipal Spaces for Radical Social and Economic Development”, was a resounding success and it ended on a higher note on Friday, 07 April 2017 in Midrand.


The Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), honourable Des van Rooyen expressed his gratitude to the many delegates who attended this important summit. This has been a necessary and important summit taking place at the right time when Municipalities are starting their 5 years journey in this 5th democratic term. This summit further affirmed that for government, the real of our country is the people being serviced by the 257 municipalities across the country. To this effect, this summit further demonstrated the strong faith and trust that government has in its people.


The summit echoed the message of President Zuma that local government should emerge with a plan of action that will guide local government in the next 5 years of its current term.


The summit resolved to continue supporting the Back-to-Basics programme in our municipalities as a building block for what the NDP defines as developmental local governance. “It is through the second phase of this important programme that we can move local government to a higher trajectory of development in pursuit of national priorities and realisation of the NDP goals”, said Minister van Rooyen.

The summit agreed that strengthening local government and ensuring that it delivers on its mandate is a Constitutional and Legislative imperative for all the three spheres of government. This is based on the understanding that with the basics performed well, then higher levels of performance in municipalities will be realised.

Whilst the provision of services by government to the people remains important, at the heart of our plans as government is to ensure that communities becomes part of their governance through community participation. It is this participation that the summit agreed will continue to drive our country to a right direction working hand in hand with all role-players and stakeholders.

As part of the discussion, the summit looked at 3 key topics and all stakeholders such as government, SALGA, trades unions, business and civil society groupings provided their inputs.


The panels were as follows:

  • Panel 1 – focused on ways in which municipal programmes can become instruments for radical social and economic transformation to build a more inclusive local economy. To achieve this, the need to build partnerships at a local level was emphasized and use all opportunities to improve the financial health of municipalities. Municipalities were urged to understand roles and responsibilities towards radical social and economic transformation at local level and what opportunities and challenges are faced as we seek to advance the agenda for radical socio-economic transformation.


  • Panel 2 – looked at intergovernmental stakeholder cooperation to build resilience. In a world where climate change, environmental degradation and rising inequality have become more intense and unpredictable, it is important to build resilient communities given the fact that emergencies and disasters all impact most heavily on the poor and disadvantaged. The panel focused on ways multi-sectoral and multi-spheres could work with local communities to create resilient communities. We must also build effective Early Warning Systems to support mitigation strategies.


  • Phase 3 – looked at transforming the economy of space. The panel discussions echoed the NDP calls for a fundamental restructuring of our space economy. Included here is continued urban sprawl, poorly integrated developments, and poor living conditions for the majority of our people. To this effect, integrated and collaborative planning with effective implementation, is critical to this transformation process. The summit therefore agreed to come up with concrete measures to reduce spatial inequality and injustice: planning across all spheres and sectors must focus on transformation objectives and implementing plans of action. Spatial transformation: this means planning to build the economy and social infrastructure for the benefit of all, and provide more opportunities and choices for all people in a spatially just society.


In general, the summit agreed to accelerate the pace of transformation, ensuring inclusivity to ensure that the poor and the unemployed in particular benefit from our programmes. This would be done through:

  1. Accelerating economic and spatial transformation – integrate plans, improve mobility and connectivity, create quality living and working environments
  2. Building on the Back to Basics programme by continuing to provide excellent services
  3. Collaboration and Leadership: ethical and committed leadership, responsive to needs of local communities, working closely with other spheres of government

The summit recognised the achievements made by government over the past 23 years of democracy, especially by the democratic local government in providing basic services to the millions of people. There was an agreement to continue to address the current challenges through harmonisation of relations between the three spheres of government, organised local government, traditional leadership, business, organised labour and civil society.

The deliberation of the last two days provided insight into this sphere of government and the mammoth task that still lies ahead for this sector Delivering his concluding remarks, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of local government which is closest to communities and charged with the responsibility to ensure efficient and effective delivery of services to communities. The Deputy President emphasised the need to address the apartheid spatial planning patens at local government level so that we are not always reminded about the scars of that brutal system.

The theme of the summit in essence speaks to overcoming the legacy of apartheid and colonialism and thus changing our society, cities and residential areas to the better. The main question is how we can reconfigure the spatial development of our country going forward. As the National Development Plan (NDP) rightfully noted, spatial architecture of our country requires urgent intervention so that we address this ugly legacy. We must confront the enormity of the developmental challenges that beset us as a nation and this the Deputy President believes will be possible by working together to ensure a local government system that responds to the needs of vibrant communities.

The Deputy President indicated that B2B is positively changing the way our municipalities operates and it has gained traction, it is attractive and effective. This is an important framework that will respond to the needs of our communities.

The Deputy President stressed that we can defeat the triple challenges – unemployment, inequality and poverty if we all come together and committed to changing the lives of all communities. It is only when we stand together that we can strengthen local government service delivery in partnership with other stakeholders and ordinary people. Our determination to build a strong local government will assist us to expand economic opportunities where our people live. The Deputy President emphasised good planning as an enabler for local economic development.

The reading of the declaration was an important element as this document is an official decision of the 3rd Presidential Local Government Summit of 2017. All Municipalities will be expected to implement the contents of this document in full.

The summit emphasised leadership, accountability and reconnecting with communities at local government level as key ingredients to achieve radical socio-economic transformation in order to respond and meet the needs, as well as the aspirations, of local communities while accelerating service delivery.

The leadership across the 3 spheres pledged to continue to serve communities through doing everything possible to ensure local government works efficiently, effectively and economically. Delegates committed themselves to be the servants of the people and trustworthy agents in service delivery.

Most importantly, delegates agreed to embrace phase 2 of the Back to Basics approach. “We will continue ensure that we have functional municipal institutions to enable the transformation of municipal spaces for radical socio-economic transformation and we will continue to strengthen and support local government in order to move our country forward”, concluded Minister van Rooyen. 

Working together we can achieve much more than what is contained in the 21 point declaration. This declaration is a clear commitment of willingness to serve and dedicate our efforts to improving the lives of our people.

In conclusion, the Deputy President stressed that our work is not yet done and we should be determined not to rest, but continue to empower our communities as expected

Let’s move forward from this summit to build a truly developmental local government that benefits the people across the country – we are definitely moving forward and getting better each day – Siyaqhuba.



Legadima Leso

CoGTA Communications

Cell: 083 378 9495