ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS, DR ZWELI MKHIZE, at the
KWAZULU-NATAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT INDABA,
23 March 2018,
The MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube and all MECs present
Chairperson of SALGA, KZN
Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders;
Chairpersons of the Local Houses of Traditional Leaders;
Mayors and councillors,
KZN COGTA Portfolio Committee,
Senior government officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to join you today in this important gathering on the important sphere of government that is closest to the people. This is one of many visits to provinces we will be conducting to support municipalities and strengthening service delivery. Thank you for inviting me.
We must just remember we are appointed as servants to advance the human rights of our people. It’s an honour we must forever cherish that we were once privileged to serve our people in various capacities in which we spare represented here.
We meet just after commemorating Human Rights Day on 21st March. It is a stark reminder of the long and arduous journey that South Africa has endured in the quest for freedom.
We dare not let the sacrifices of the heroes and heroines of 1969, as well as generations of struggle, be in vain. This year we marked Human Rights Day under the theme, â€œThe Year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Promoting and deepening a human rights culture across society.â€ It was Tata Madiba who said, â€œTo deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.â€
The values of integrity, selflessness and equality for all that Madiba espoused are some of the ideals we should seek to emulate as we go about our tasks in improving the state of local government.
The Constitution of the Republic guarantees Human Rights for all South Africans. The core services that the municipalities provide such as clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, shelter, waste removal and roads, are essential components of the right to dignity enshrined in our constitution and the bill of rights.
Having been deployed in the area of cooperative governance, we have become even more aware of the concerns people have in relation to the commitment to service delivery.
I met with MECs responsible for local government and traditional affairs in Pretoria last Friday and we agreed that we need to do things differently in order to change the face of local government and make it perform better. We need to get municipalities to do what they are supposed to do, which is to provide efficient and reliable basic services to the people.
A well-functioning municipality will have strong political and administrative leadership. It is characterised by stability. There are functional council and oversight structures, a consistent spending of capital budgets, consistent unqualified audit outcomes and good financial management. These are some of the key principles of the Back to Basics programme for the revitalisation of municipalities.
The performance of the majority of the municipalities still remains below expectations. Uneven performance continues to characterise the state of local government. For example, since the beginning of the Back to Basics programme in 2014, twenty one municipalities in KZN remain unchanged, fourteen municipalities have shown an improvement while 12 have regressed.
There are several challenges facing municipalities that give rise to this state of affairs. There is high political infighting and instability in some municipalities. Unstable political coalitions in some areas affect governance.
There is a high vacancy rate, non-compliance with rules and regulations, inappropriate spending of budgets, high debt, disregard of supply chain management regulations and lack of skilled personnel for critical posts as well as fraud and corruption and general incompetence of staff. We are also concerned about procurement irregularities, we take it seriously that some municipalities have detriotated to receive disclaimers.
Our people will not accept that we appointed people who are incompetent to run their municipalities and entrusted their basic services on people who cannot do basic administration. Our President will not accept disclaimers, incompetence and irregularities! As minister I will not accept deteriorating audit outcomes and disclaimers, not now, not in the future! This requires urgent action by the municipal leadership, both political and administrative.
It requires that provincial government must immediately prepare a turnaround strategy with concrete action to reverse the situation. Our major concern right now is the problem of municipalities which are becoming distressed and dysfunctional, but worse is those who are regressing, those that had been performing well with a good revenue base which are now eroding their revenue base and eating into their reserves. The matter of clean audits should not be seen as a duty of the chief financial officer and the treasury staff, nor even of the municipal manager alone.
It is the responsibility of the Mayor, Speaker and counsellors and administrative staff combined. No treasury staff can cure the impact of illegal political instructions, badly researched decisions of council and poor supervision of mayor and accounting officer who abdicates responsibility. This indaba has to take a strong stand against corruption and administrative irregularities that makes for breakdown in pillars of good governance.
Also of serious concern is the tension between municipalities and Eskom. Municipalities currently owe R39 billion in unpaid fees. Government appealed to Eskom to suspend the interruption of services to municipalities due to the huge sums of monies that they owe. It is unacceptable that municipalities owe so much money to Eskom and water boards. The Inter-Ministerial Task Team dealing with electrification is looking into the matter.
One of the main challenges is the lack of technical capacity in municipalities to carry out their functions, especially to deliver much needed infrastructure.
Nine of the 55 dysfunctional municipalities that require urgent support, are in this province. From the February MIG report, nine KZN municipalities have less than 40% expenditure on total allocation and experience other challenges none other than expenditure.
These issues include governance, capacity, lack of suitable contractors to work on implementation and completion of projects, supply chain challenges, internal political challenges affecting running of municipality, governance challenges, municipality using MIG funds for other purposes and not paying contractors on MIG projects.
We are also encouraged that over the past five years, the KZN province has achieved an average of 90% or above in respect of spending on Municipal Infrastructure Grant allocations. It is important that we improve on this performance in the coming years. We believe this will go a long way towards changing the face of municipalities, and citizensâ€™ experience of local government.
With regards to struggling municipalities, we aim to strengthen the support provided through MISA and to find permanent solutions that can turn municipalities around once and for all. This cannot be achieved by simply accelerating expenditure and execution of projects.
A more comprehensive strategic solution is required that will make the municipalities to be self-sufficient and more resilient. I find it encouraging that this indaba made a strong point of emphasizing revenue generation. No council can succeed on the grant transfers from national government alone.
We are committing to assist in revenue generation.
It is for this reason that we are approaching the provinces and municipalities with a concrete proposal. We are planning the urgent deployment of technical experts. These teams will include civil engineers, accountants, construction and project managers, town and regional planners as well as people with expertise in governance and administration.
MISA is currently providing support to the Amajuba, Zululand, Umzinyathi, iLembe, Uthukela and Umkhanyakude district municipalities.
The focus of this support package includes the development of operations and maintenance plans in respect of water and sanitation, as well as roads, storm water drainage and planning-related support such as the review of spatial development frameworks, land use management schemes and land audits.
In addition to this, MISA has embarked on a skills development training programme. In KZN, 43 young people are currently undergoing training to qualify as artisans. A further 23 graduates have been placed in municipalities for workplace exposure. Training has also been provided to 70 municipal officials in infrastructure delivery and management.
Ladies and gentlemen,
COGTA has a responsibility to coordinate activities to ensure economic growth, increasing investment and create conducive environment for radical economic transformation, job creation and a prosperous country. Mayors must become the champions of inclusive growth and economic emancipation and job creation. Every decision the municipality takes the question must be asked how will the decision improve service delivery, create jobs and advance economic growth and transformation.
I support the call for continuous capacity building for counsellors to ensure effective oversight role as champions for development.
Our people need jobs and we need effective income generating activities in our municipalities to fight poverty and unemployment and create thriving local economies. Local Economic Development (LED) is a key instrument of promoting thriving local economies, with investments such as in factories, workshops, technical hubs and locally-owned retail operations in our townships and rural areas, large or small.
The interventions do not need to be only small-scale. High value economic activity in townships and villages must also be encouraged.
Such activity must also help us to generate the agrarian revolution that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about in the State of the Nation Address. Hence we want to work with sister departments to ensure that households with land in their backyards start food gardens and that no piece of land must remain fallow. Former President Zuma had championed rural development, and we need to take his vision forward and achieve the goals he espoused.
The institution of traditional leadership is indeed critical in the quest for a better society and a South Africa free of poverty, inequality and unemployment, and in particular for rural development.
I met the leadership of the National House of Traditional Leaders on Monday this week in Pretoria to discuss a programme of action on the issues raised during the opening of the National House by President Ramaphosa on 27 February 2018. The opening was followed by a debate on the Presidentâ€™s Address on 01 March 2018.
Key issues raised during the debate have been identified, and we presented a draft action plan to address these issues to the traditional leadership.
The issues we placed on the table for discussion with the traditional leaders and on which we must jointly work are categorized as follows:
- Land ownership, tenure rights and economic development
- Nation building and social cohesion
- Institutional capacity and support
- Constitutional and legislative mandate.
The issues identified cut across various departments and institutions and also across the three spheres of government. COGTA will work with sister departments as well as well as entities such as the Independent Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers in the Presidency to achieve these goals.
Further engagement on the proposals relating to economic development will take place. We are determined to work closely with traditional leaders to ensure we move a step ahead towards ensuring that the rural development that is so required does indeed take place.
We are also aware of the problem regarding the salaries of izinduna in this province. I had to deal with the matter during my tenure as premier. It is complicated and we need to find a way to deal with it.
While we engage in various activities to improve the state of local government, let us not forget our role of ensuring that we respond appropriately to the challenges of climate change and that our disaster management machinery is ready and able to respond effectively.
I am glad that the KZN Provincial Disaster Management Centre has undertaken district engagement sessions on Climate Change Resilience and Sustainable development.
Let us continue in this vein and be prepared.
Fellow South Africans,
As we carry out our duties as public representatives at all levels of work, we need to remember that we represent those struggles and sentiments for which our people laid down their lives. This should influence our approach as we work to further improve the way local government works, so that our people can get better services.
Public representatives and government officials must make an impact in the improvement of the lives of our people. Let me appeal to all of us as public representatives and officials – We must always put our people first – Batho Pele. Our people must feel that their elected representatives are here to serve them, that they care and are prepared to listen and respond. They must feel that their representatives in particular, have no other interests than to work for the improvement of their lives.
Our public representatives must conduct an introspection and ask what else they can do to earn the confidence of ordinary South Africans. They should not be distracted by factional fights, greed and self-interest.
We also urge provincial and municipal leaders to redouble effort to restore good governance in municipalities and eliminate irregularities, fraud corruption and all forms of procurement transgressions. Each of these misdemeanours undermine services that our people are waiting for and in many instances constitute theft from poor South Africans. There must be consequences where resources meant for the poor are mismanaged or stolen to prevent recurrences.
We also need to closely investigate how these factors impact on the conflicts that we often observe among public representatives who are meant to serve together, where conflicts and tensions begin to manifest in different municipalities and layers of government. KwaZulu-Natal has borne the brunt of counsellors killings, uMzimkhulu, Mkhambathini, Richmond,etc. These killings undermine the history of KZN as broker of peace and tolerance. It creates an impression of weakleadership and poor record of criminal investigation. We must all take a collective stand to say Here and no further! Death of Councillors has spread to several other provinces. This again must stop!
We need to investigate thoroughly to see if the corruption and procurement irregularities may have been precipitating the deaths of councillors in some municipalities, which has affected KZN municipalities more than most. All these matters need scrutiny as they impact on the delivery of services to our people. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of councillors that are killed and this reflects on a crisis of leadership we need to attend to it to ensure that not one more life is lost. We should not tolerate any bloodshed that is inexplicable and linked to a municipality anywhere in the province and in the country.
Next year we go to the polls to exercise our hard-won democratic right to vote. During the 10th and 11th of March the Independent Electoral Commission held a voter registration and address verification weekend.
The IEC needs to find 2,8 million voters whose addresses are either incomplete or missing as per the Mhlophe court judgement. During that weekend 300 000 missing address voters were obtained. We must take this exercise seriously and ensure that we verify our addresses and also get our family members, colleagues, neighbours and others to do the same.
I met with the IEC and we agreed that this matter needs some heightened action from all of us to ensure compliance.
Allow me to congratulate the City of Durban for being ranked as the most liveable City in South Africa, by the 20th Mercer Quality of Living report, released this week.
The Quality of Living report measures the political, social and economic environment, as well as public services and transport, housing, education, recreation and the natural environment. For the first time the report also assess the cityâ€™s sanitation. The infrastructure assessment measures the supply of electricity, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation as well as traffic congestion and the range of international flights available from local airports. Well done to the warmest city where the fun never sets!
Fellow South Africans,
In the year that we mark the centenary of the birth of Tata Madiba, it is necessary that our response embody the principles and practice that Madiba himself emulated.
We shall do our best to provide leadership working with provincial and local government to ensure that our people get the local government they deserve. However, Government will not achieve these goals working alone.
We call on all civil society â€“ the faith-based organisations, traditional leaders and community based organisations to work with us and not miss the opportunity to hold government accountable for decisions made. It is this vigilance by our people, which will ensure that government performs as elected.
There must be an improvement in the lives of the people. Services must be provided. Municipal councils need to get back to basics and fix potholes cut the grass, fix broken street lights, fix leaking pipes and show our people that we care.
The people must also play their role. We need to clean our towns and cities. The refuse dumping all over is not only despicable but is also dehumanising. We need to stand up and embark on cleaning campaigns in all our towns and villages. Cleanliness is sign of self-respect and love for ourselves. We need to coordinate this campaign and inculcate a spirit of caring for environment and love our towns.
I am glad that indaba wants to revive grass roots service delivery in the form of war rooms
We must also build a compassionate society where women and girls feel safe from violence and abuse, a society where we care for the aged and vulnerable, and a society where everyone has the possibility of a better life.
Ladies and gentlemen , we are going to turn municipalities around. We are determined to turn municipalities around. With your commitment to service I know we will turn our towns and cities around. We will turn our townships and rural villages around. We shall together change our country for the better! We are ready to serve.
President Ramaphosa issued a clarion call for us to go all out to serve our people with honour integrity and dignity with the words THUMA MINA.
So as we are gathered here and in different parts of the country we should join in and in the words of our icon Hugh Masekela all say….
I want to be there when our people turn municipalities around. Send me!
When they triumph over poverty unemployment and inequality I want to be there.
When our people protest and cry out for service delivery I want to be there.
I want to be there for the indigent unemployed and those in informal settlements.
I want to lend a hand when our people fight against rigging of tenders fraud and corruption.
I want to be there when our people eliminate crime violence and abuse of women and children.
I want to be there in the fight against HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis and Cancers
I want to be there to ensure food security and healthy lifestyles,Send me!
I want to be there when our people fight for land and get involved in the agrarian revolution.
I want to be there when our people clean the streets of our towns and cities to reclaim our dignity and pride.
I want to be there in the fight for a sustainable environment.
I want to be there when our people fix the potholes fix broken lights and cut the grass on the verges of the roads.
I want to be there when our people share in the country’s wealth to be included in a growing and vibrant economy.
I want to lend a hand in the struggle to improve the lives of all South Africans.
I want to be there for nation building social cohesion and a the protection of human rights for all.
THUMA Mina, Send Me
I am ready to serve our people, nothing else but serve our people.
I thank you.