The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) hosted a breakfast briefing today (29 June 2016) in partnership with the SABC and the New Age Newspaper. The briefing was held under the theme – “15 years of the democratic local government”.
Clearly from the comments, this briefing was overdue and it definitely succeeded to explain the work of COGTA and the 15 years of the democratic local government.
The TNA breakfast briefing provided a rare opportunity to government to speak directly to communities on the progress registered thus far and the work that still has to be done.
The point of departure was the recognition that the local sphere of our government is important as it is at the coal face of service. Every South African reside in a municipality and the work of government is also undertaken in Municipalities. Owing to this important work that municipalities have to do on daily basis and interacting with communities, there is progress noted across the country, but we cannot relax as we believe that there is still a lot to be done.
“The 15 years period of the democratic local government in an important time for us to reflect on the key milestone that requires the country to reflect deeply on our challenges and achievements with the aim to build sustainable municipalities”, said Minister van Rooyen.
The briefing covered the wide range of areas that are key to the work of the department:
- 15 years of local government – outlining service delivery.
- The importance of the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).
- The role of Community Works Programme (CWP)
- Issues related to demarcation
- The role of Traditional leaders in the democratic dispensation and Intimation season
- Progress towards the Local Government Elections
15 years of Local government:
This system of democratic local government, which celebrated 15 years in December 2015, brought stability within the sector, which is central to the entire transformative project of South Africa. The Auditor-General’s report on local government audit outcomes for the 2014-15 financial year, revealed that municipalities have shown an encouraging improvement in their audit results over the past five years from 2010-11 to 2014-15.
- According to StatsSA (General Household survey 2015), the percentage of households that lived in formal dwellings and whose dwellings were fully owned increased from 52.9% to 53.8% between 2002 and 2015, while the percentage of partially owned dwellings declined from 15.5% to 9.7%.
- An estimated 45.8% of households had access to piped water in their dwellings in 2015. A further 27% accessed water on site while 13.9% relied on communal taps and 2.7% relied on neighbours’ taps.
- Environmental hygiene plays an essential role in the prevention of many diseases. It also impacts on the natural environment and the preservation of important natural assets, such as water resources. This makes the provision of and access to basic sanitation services an important part of everyday life for all.
Through the work of government in the last 15 years, the dignity of South Africans was restored and they were able to get basic services and amenities that they could access.
Community Work Programme
With regards the Community Work Programme (CWP) which is a community-driven government programme based in the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG). It provides an employment safety net and basic minimum income for people living in marginalised areas where, often, employment opportunities are not easily accessible.
The CWP places local government in the hands of citizens in two ways. Firstly, it provides work opportunities to the poorest of the poor scattered across municipalities around the country. Secondly, it allows them to select the type of service delivery initiative that their community needs the most, be it the planting of food gardens, assistance to the elderly, or the provision of safety patrols at schools and other community areas.
In the past financial year, the CWP created 197 000 work opportunities in 196 municipalities. In the past year 30 new CWP sites were added. However, the CWP is not just a job creation initiative or a vote-catching exercise as some members of the opposition would have you believe. This is truly the programme that will contribute to the brighter future for our country.
Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF)
On the other hand, Deputy Minister Nel explained the importance of the IUDF and has undergone an extensive consultation process over the years. “Out of this process we’ve developed an urban vision of creating “liveable, safe, resource-efficient cities and towns that are socially integrated, economically inclusive and globally competitive, where residents actively participate in urban life”, said Deputy Minister Nel. The alignment of people’s jobs, livelihoods and services promises an urban dividend that can reset the country’s social and economic growth trajectory.
To support this vision, the IUDF proposes an urban growth and management model premised on compact and connected cities and towns. To achieve this vision of spatial transformation will require the involvement of the various levels of government, the private sector and civil society, and importantly the citizens whose lives are directly impacted upon by the IUDF. This is what we mean when we say that local government is in your hands. It’s only when we have everyone on board that the IUDF can succeed. The IUDF is central to all discussions on our urban future.
The IUDF offers a New Deal for South Africa’s towns and cities and it is in line with the National Development Plan. With more than 60 percent of South Africa’s population now living in urban areas, the report takes on even greater significance. DM Nel said urbanisation is a global phenomenon and is happening fast and everywhere. “Municipalities should take advantage of urbanisation in terms of building their economy although it also have its challenges when not well managed, said Deputy Minister Nel.
It is clear that the IUDF programme responds to the chapter on Spatial planning as contained in the National Development Plan.
Within the contest of the IUDF, Minister van Rooyen also emphasised that the Local economic development (LED), can serve as an important catalytic instrument to create the necessary broad partnerships and conditions for economic development that can generate better and high quality service delivery, decent jobs, participation and empowerment of communities, women, youth and vulnerable groups.
The Minister said that existence of the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) makes the work simple as it is an independent authority responsible for the determination of municipal boundaries. The board assists to build wall to wall municipalities across the country. Minister says that the institution also contributes to building a new system of local government that brings about stability within the sector which is the key site of delivery and development and is central to the entire transformative project of South Africa.
The chairperson of the demarcation board, Ms Jane Thupana outlined the role of the board. She stressed that this role is clearly explained in the legislation, hence its work is dictated by the law. The MDB renders an advisory service in respect of matters provided for in the Act and other appropriate legislation when so requested.
“While the MDB has been mandated to fulfil its legislative functions independently, ideally the demarcation of local government boundaries should be related to the specific objectives of local government. Any review of local government should consider at the outset the purposes or values which provide the rationale for local government and its relationship to other levels of government”, said Ms Thupana.
Deputy Minister Bapela indicated that the institution of traditional leadership is important in our country, hence it is enshrined in the Constitution. The traditional leaders are the custodian of their own cultural practices and are also responsible for leading communities. This simple means that the traditional leadership institution play a complementary role in the local government sphere.
The Deputy Minister called on the continued interaction with Municipalities where they reside. This partnership and working together between municipal council and the traditional council is important for ensuring well-functioning municipalities across the country.
“We commend the municipalities where this important partnership is solid and government is working will with the institution of traditional leadership as this will definitely move our country forward as envisaged by our constitution”, said Deputy Minister Bapela.
There is a definite need for cooperation between government and the institution of traditional leaders as this will encourage good working relations to uplift standard of the communities. The Deputy Minister also touched on the mining activities that take place in rural areas. In some of this areas, there is wealth coming out of the mines, but that is not reflected in communities that continue to remain poor.
On issues of initiation, the Deputy Minister indicated that they are saddened by the death of initiates and also disappointed by parents who continue to gamble with the lives of their children by taking them to illegal initiation schools. The Ministry condemned the criminal activities that happen during the initiation season in the name of culture. The department, traditional leaders and other stakeholders are working loosely to see to it that the total number of deaths during initiations are stopped completely or drastically reduced and any wrong doing can be arrested.
“We urge therefore urge all political parties impress upon their supporters to behave in a manner that will promote peaceful election. South Africans have to ensure calm and peace as we move towards the local government elections. In addition, we request parties to also observe the electoral code of ethics which they all bound themselves to upholding in this election period”, said Minister van Rooyen.
The Minister indicated that, with regards to our readiness for the local elections, I can confirm that from our side as government, I can confirm that it is now all systems go towards the 03 August 2016 polls. We therefore appeal to communities as the most important stakeholders to also answer this question about our readiness honestly as they are at the centre of our democracy which an election is an integral part.
We should be mindful that voting is the only way to keep our democratic system based on the will of the people working. We call on all South Africans to honour our history and continue to strengthen the legitimacy of our democracy. It is through these elections that the citizens can choose those who will represent them for the next five years in the local government sphere so as to move our country forward.
The right to vote is a fundamental right enshrined in the Bill of Rights and we encourage all South Africans, especially young and first-time voters, to go out in their numbers to exercise their democratic right by voting on 03 August 2016 and choose the leaders of their choice.