The South African Constitution emphasizes the unitary nature of our state by referring to “one, sovereign, democratic state”.
The Constitution goes on to provide for a system of cooperative government consisting of three spheres of government: national, provincial and local.
These spheres are distinctive, interdependent and interrelated.
Each sphere has distinctive powers and functions but forms part of a single coherent system of government for the country.
This system of government is founded on a core commitment to cooperative government and state action that promotes basic human rights.
Cooperative government is premised on the three spheres having concurrent or overlapping authority for most service delivery functions, a right to an equitable share of revenue, and an obligation to cooperate with each as a single system of government for the country.
Within this framework, national government has extensive powers to regulate the other two spheres, and provinces and municipalities must exercise their powers within the limits of the Constitution and national government’s regulatory authority.
The cooperative government model is thus based on strong national government, limited provincial and local autonomy and strong bonds of interdependence between all three spheres.
Given the interdependence of the three spheres of government in South Africa, it is a challenge to evaluate the performance of the provincial sphere of government on its own.
What is evident, however, is that the way in which the three spheres of government work together to achieve common goals, should be reviewed to improve the achievement of the National Development Plan.
There is a growing realisation that the system of cooperative government is not working optimally.
There is a need for greater coordination and cohesion between and across the three spheres of government, and also between government and the people.
The past 24 years’ practice of cooperative government has showed the following:
· Firstly, there is instability and uncertainty in the core roles and functions of the spheres;
· Secondly, the system of intergovernmental relations is evolving, but there are weaknesses in the institutional framework; and
· Thirdly, the current regulatory framework for planning, spatial development and land use is ineffective.
Provincial government has three core mandates:
1. Providing representative, participatory and accountable government in a province and representing provincial interests in the National Council of Provinces;
2. Providing public services and promoting provincial development; and
3. Contributing to cooperative governance in the country.
Provincial governments must provide social services and infrastructure to their resident populations and promote the growth and development of their territories.
School education, primary health care and social welfare services are the three main service delivery responsibilities of provincial government, accounting for the major share of the annual provincial budget.
Provincial public expenditure seeks to promote redistribution to poor, historically excluded, and vulnerable sectors of society in line with national policy objectives for reconstruction and development of the country.
Previous reviews the performance of provincial government, have identified the positive contribution to provinces in providing resources and access to social services, but have also found that there is inconsistency in the delivery and quality of those services.
Legislative confusion about the division of powers and functions is further aggravated by the enactment of sector legislation, impacting on health, housing and transport services for example, with poorly defined delegations inviting either fiscal ‘gaps’ or unfunded mandates.
Another kind of pressure arises as a consequence of uncertainty about which sphere of government is, or should be, accountable for delivering a particular service.
Here the issue is not the way a sphere exercises its responsibility, but the proper location of that responsibility.
Pressure has also been created by apartheid social engineering, which left behind a distorted space economy and highly fragmented human settlements in our towns, cities and rural areas.
There is growing pressure on all levels of government to become adept at spatial development planning, and to respond to space strategically and efficiently.
These are matters that we are addressing through the implementation of the Integrated Urban Development Framework.
Provinces have an important role in terms of local government support and supervision. The 1998 Local Government White Paper outlines seven key roles provinces should to play in terms of local government:
These roles are as follows:
(1) A developmental role in terms of which the provincial government should ensure that the integrated development plans of the municipalities combine to form a viable development framework across the province and are vertically integrated with provincial growth and development strategies.
(2) An intergovernmental role whereby local government is included in provincial decision-making and province guides the horizontal co-operation and co-ordination between municipalities in the province.
(3) A regulatory role in terms of section 155(7) of the Constitution, the exercise of municipalities’ authority on Schedule 4B and Schedule 5B matter.
(4) An institutional development and capacity-building role in terms of section 155(6) of the Constitution whereby a province promotes the development of local governments’ capacity in order for municipalities to perform their own functions and manage their own affairs.
(5) A fiscal role in terms of which provinces should monitor the financial status and financial performance of municipalities.
(6) A monitoring role in terms of which provinces monitor local government’s execution of Schedule 4B and 5B matters, and as these relate to their performance in service delivery, in accordance with the objectives of section 152 of the Constitution.
(7) An intervention role in terms of section 139 of the Constitution, in terms of which provincial government intervenes in a municipality by sending directives, assuming responsibility or by dissolving a municipal council.
Provinces have the constitutional obligation to monitor and support and strengthen the municipality to perform their functions, especially under S154 of the Constitution.
Provincial capacity is justifiably under the spotlight following the findings of the municipal assessments preceding the development of the government–wide municipal intervention programme of Back to Basics.
The question that could be asked, is: would municipalities be in the state of distress as evidenced, if provinces had been executing their role to support, oversee and intervene timeously and appropriately, in municipalities?
There seem to be indications of uneven provincial capacity in terms of support to local government and the building of such capacity in provincial governments.
This is enjoying attention through the Back to Basics approach.
As generally identified by the National Planning Unit in the Presidency during this term of government, provinces should give more attention to the quality of management in government departments, addressing of weaknesses in procurement systems and strengthening of administrative relations between provincial departments and their national counterparts.
It also raises the need for monitoring and evaluation experts to continuously monitor communities so that we can detect early-warning signals to prevent the eruption of violent protests.
BACK TO BASICS
During this term of government, provinces have played a leading role in establishing the Back to Basic programme since its launch in September 2014.
There has been regular feedback at the Presidential Coordinating Council (PCC) of the work done by provinces in this regard. It was agreed that Premiers should champion the implementation of the Back to Basics Programme.
All provinces have established the Provincial Back to Basics Multi-Sectoral Task Teams.
CoGTA is working with other national departments, provincial government, and municipalities to formulate Back to Basics recovery plans for distressed and dysfunctional municipalities.
Provincial visits have been paid to Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and North West.
District Support Teams consisting of engineers, planners, governance and finance experts are being deployed to distressed and dysfunctional municipalities.
NATIONAL INTERVENTIONS IN PROVINCES
During the current term of government (2014-2019), ten provincial departments were placed under Section 100 interventions.
Under the previous interventions, four provinces were affected: Limpopo (mostly), Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Free State.
In 2018, all the interventions took place in only one province, namely the North West.
Placement under Section 100 (1) (b) means that National Government will “fully takeover” the administration of the listed departments, while those placed under section 100 (1) (a) will work alongside an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC).
The IMTT reported in August 2018 that work was underway to activate the monitoring capacity of the Office of the Premier in North West to support the monitoring of the intervention.
The six key result areas included effective implementation of section 100(1a); clean governance and institutional capacity; improved service delivery and labour relations; effective communication and public accountability; effective coordination and intervention.
It was also decided to place eight municipalities under administration from 1 September 2018: Kagisano-Molopo; Ramotshere Moiloa; Ditsobotla; Kgetlengrivier; Maquassi Hills; Naledi; Mahikeng local municipalities; and the Ngaka Modiri Molema district municipality would be under section 139(1)(b) of the constitution, and section 137 Municipal Finance Management Act.
Premier Job Mkgoro indicated that the executive council resolved that all the 22 municipalities in the province require constant monitoring and support.
To this end, the executive council agreed that a report on the assessment of and support to municipalities will be a standing item in all its meetings, which will enable the executive council to regularly make an informed assessment on the state of municipalities and make informed interventions.
In conclusion, South Africa’s democratic Constitution has sought to turn the apartheid patchwork of different tiers of government into a coherent system, devolving appropriate functions to provincial and local levels, including districts, municipalities and metropolitan areas.
This is in line with our constitutional commitment to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, and prosperous South Africa.
There is a widely held view both inside and outside South Africa that decentralisation makes government more accountable and in tune with citizens’ needs.
But decentralisation is no panacea, it requires commitment and capacity to work effectively.
This is particularly true in the South African context, where local administrations were shaped by very different histories.
In forging a new South Africa, sub-national government has a special duty to assist historically deprived areas, but it is in these very areas that capacity is weakest.
Going forward, the role of provincial government in the state must be settled.
Serious consideration must be given to promoting greater stability, coordination and integration by introducing comprehensive framework legislation on provincial government.
Many stakeholders, including several provinces, have expressed support for national legislation.
The following elements could be considered going forward into the new review process:
· Define the role and functions of “developmental provincial government” in national legislation;
· Provide a framework for establishing provincial departments;
· Define concurrency in the context of national priorities, provincial service delivery, planning and development;
· Clarify the relationship with traditional leadership;
· Set indicators for provincial government performance and norms and standards for provincial service delivery and organisational structures, and provide for accountability mechanisms to national government;
· Define national government’s responsibility to support and intervene in provinces;
· Introduce a national capacity-building programme for provinces;
· the support, monitoring and intervention roles of provinces in respect of local government; and
· Review the assignment/centralisation/decentralisation framework for powers and functions between the three spheres of government.
We are confident that the NCOP will rise to the challenge of engaging these important matters.