Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize

Minister Zweli Mkhize’s Address during the SALGA National Members Assembly

Remarks by Hon Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, during the Salga National Members Assembly, Durban ICC, KwaZulu-Natal

11 December 2018

Your Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa,

The President of SALGA and the United Cities & Local Governments, Cllr Parks Tau,

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Hon Willies Mchunu,

Honourable Ministers,

Honourable MECs,

Executive Mayor of EThekwini Metro, Ms Zandile Gumede,

Mayors, Councillors, Senior Officials,

International Guests and Members of the diplomatic corps,

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are pleased to join you all today for this important SALGA National Members Assembly.

We are particularly honoured as the local government sector to host His Excellency the President, to interact with political office bearers and officials from all our country’s municipalities.

Mr President you continue to provide active support to our sector. We know that we can count on you for guidance as we work to rebuild and strengthen local government so that it can serve our people better and with dignity. We truly appreciate your support.

This Assembly convenes under an auspicious theme; “Building a sustainable, responsive, people-centred local government system.”

A strong and stable local government system is essential for a vibrant democracy. It is also crucial in ensuring the provision of  services to our people efficiently, effectively and in a caring manner.

Our democracy is people-centred and so is our local government system, which embraces strong citizen participation, good governance and proper service delivery. A people-centred government is the one where Councillors maintain constant interaction with and address the needs of their constituencies.

As we gather today we must thus reflect on this key responsibility of each and every leader in the local government sphere. We exist to serve the people, nothing else but the people. If the people are unhappy, and complain about water and electricity shortages, potholes, sewage spillages, grass that is not cut on the verges of the roads or refuse that is not collected, we cannot and should not rest as elected public representatives of our people.

The satisfaction of the people we serve must come first before anything else. It is unacceptable when people become more loyal to their own interests than to the people, when it does no longer matter when communities are unhappy, when we fear upsetting our colleagues and friends more than upsetting the communities we serve. The concerns of communities must be taken seriously at all times. That is what we should remind ourselves as we gather to take stock here in Durban.

At the beginning of this year, we identified the various challenges in our municipalities, which contribute to poor service delivery.

We identified governance and administration, and financial management challenges, including the lack of capacity to implement infrastructure projects, which cumulatively results in poor service delivery and consequently restlessness in our communities, who often express their discontent with violent protests.

We set out to address these challenges and to change the negative perceptions about local government. We launched the Municipal Recovery Plan which is derived from the Back to Basics principles, working with the National Treasury and colleagues in all provinces, focusing on fixing governance and administration challenges as well as financial management issues.  Our priorities also addressing political instability in some councils caused by shaky coalitions or internal dynamics within political parties.

We embarked on provincial visits to address these challenges. Working with colleagues Premiers and MECs and mayors, we agreed to adhere to a recovery plan in each of the affected municipalities visited, with clear targets in terms of financial management, governance and administration as well as service delivery improvement. This work is ongoing.

We also announced the deployment of engineers and town planners in 55 distressed and dysfunctional municipalities earlier this year, so that they can be able to spend the money allocated for infrastructure. There is an improvement in some municipalities while others still have some way to go still towards recovery in this regard.

We welcome appreciate the proposed investment in municipal social infrastructure improvement, which the President committed as part of the economic stimulus package announced in the economic recovery plan in September.  This will contribute immensely to the improvement of the competitiveness of municipalities as they seek investments that will in turn boost job creation.

Let me take this opportunity to update members on the upper limits. The Ministers of Finance as well as Public Service and Administration, the MECs and SALGA have been given until 14 December to comment on the Draft Notice on the Upper Limits for councillors. We intend to gazette on 17 December 2018 for implementation.

Meanwhile. a tender on the review of the remuneration of senior managers was advertised in the Government Tender Bulletin of 30 November 2018 with the closing date of 21 January 2019. COGTA intends to finalise the review and to implement market related salaries before the commencement of the new financial year of municipalities in 2019.

We believe we are all agreed that local government must improve and that we all have a responsibility to ensure that it does. The buck stops with the delegates in this Assembly. You are meeting with the right people today Mr President. The people who run local government.

When you visited COGTA Headquarters in Pretoria in May this year we felt encouraged and energised. We feel encouraged and wish to assure you that the COGTA Thuma Mina pledge remains our lodestar in our efforts to address local government challenges.

We adopted that Pledge encouraged by the mood and spirit you brought along with you when you took office. You asked the nation to embrace the spirit of the New Dawn which gave our people hope that things will change for the better in our country.

You have actively promoted good governance and the fight against crime and corruption. You have been working tirelessly to boost economic development and growth and to promote inward investments so that our people can get jobs, especially our youth.

You have been hosting summits to involve various sectors in governance so that all can be play a part in building a better tomorrow.

With all these activities and many more that you are leading Mr President, what each of us can and should say is Thuma Mina, so that we all play our role in building our country.

We owe it to our illustrious leaders like Tata Madiba, Albertina Sisulu, Chief Albert Luthuli and many others who sacrificed life’s comforts for a free South Africa.

We should draw inspiration from Madiba’s words about local government during his last opening of Parliament in February 1999.

He said, I quote:

“But we must be honest and acknowledge that, in many respects, this level of government has often played itself out as an Achilles Heel of democratic governance. This is not for the lack of structures and rules. Where this happens, it has more to do with the behaviour and attitudes of cadres that all parties have deployed in these structures.

“It is a matter of the survival of democracy, of the confidence that people will have in the new system, that all of us should pay particular attention to this issue. The public is justified in demanding better service, more respect and greater concern for their needs rather than self-aggrandisement.”

Almost twenty years later, these words still resonate forcefully with profound truth as during that time.

The challenge is for us to heed these words and change.

We can do it, and lets do it

Mr President, thank you for gracing this occasion, we  are ready for the line of march!

I thank you!