The Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), honourable Des van Rooyen held a fruitful meeting with the 23 European Union (EU) resident Ambassadors in the country.
This meeting followed a Note Verbal received by the Office of the Minister from Ambassador Marcus Conaro, who is the head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of South Africa requesting the Minister for a meeting to discuss amongst others:
- Current challenges in Intergovernmental relations in South Africa,
- The role of traditional leadership in shaping domestic politics, and
- The Municipal elections scheduled for 3rd August 2016.
The meeting was cordial and took place within a positive atmosphere which reflected the positive atmosphere and the keen interest on both sides to ensure that the results assist to move the country forward.
The Minister begun by explaining the role and functions of his Ministry. This was geared to assist the EU delegates to contextualise our work and the future possible areas of collaboration. The Minister indicated that the Department of Cooperative Governance is responsible for managing the inter-governmental relations between national, provincial and local government, as well as our traditional leaders. The Department of Traditional Affairs is tasked with overseeing the role and responsibilities of traditional leaders, as well as ensuring that the institution of traditional leadership maintains its relevance in a democratic South Africa.
The meeting reflected on the relationship of the EU and the Department of Cooperative Governance which has largely been around development cooperation or donor support. This and many other projects brought us closer together as we continue working towards our development.
Dialogue ensued at the meeting taking into consideration the fact that the Ministry of CoGTA been a beneficiary of EU support to a number of its programmes over the past ten years. The EU supported the development of mechanisms to enhance public participation in local government and also supported a programme to build the capacity of local government to respond to migration.
The discussions also cantered around the support that the Ministry of COGTA will receive under the EU Multi-Indicative Programme (MIP) which will make a total of €242 million to the South African state to ‘build a capable state’. COGTA, DPSA, and DPME will serve as lead departments that will be funded to undertake catalytic projects that seek to strengthen the capacity of the state at national, provincial and local government level. This interventions will go a long way in ensuring that we build the necessary capacity in government.
In addition, the Minister reflected on the key milestones in the journey of our democracy which are an integral part of our society. “The year 2016 has great significance as it again provides us an opportunity to reflect on the successful 15 years of the democratic local government. Of importance in local government sphere is that South Africans will be going to the polls on the 3rd August 2016 to refresh the mandate of this important sphere in line with our constitution”, said Minister van Rooyen.
The minister also indicated that as part of this democratic journey, South Africa has to ensure that government constantly engages more and openly with citizens throughout the country. As government we can without any fear say that we have indeed undertaken this task with flying colours. This process of community engagements have assisted government to be closer to the people and be receptive to their needs.
The Minister also appraised the ambassadors on the key objectives of the local government sector that we set ourselves within the National Development Plan (NDP) which is our roadmap towards a South Africa we envisaged. “As government we are confident that guided by the NDP, we will definitely work with all stakeholders to generate better public services, meet the demand for infrastructure development, grow the economy to combat poverty and unemployment, stabilise our governance arrangements, and improve levels of clarity and accountability for roles and responsibilities within government”, said Minister van Rooyen.
The meeting also reflected on the importance of the Back to Basics approach which was launched by President Zuma on 18 September 2014. This approach entrenched the system of local government. This vision of a developmental local government system was that it would be the building block on which the reconstruction and development of the country and society should be built, a place in which the citizens of South Africa could engage in a meaningful and direct way with the institutions of the state.
Through this programme and other key interventions, Minister van Rooyen appraised the delegates about the tremendous progress in delivering water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal at a local level. “The rate at which this services were delivered is unprecedented. This services have been progressively extended to more citizens than ever before between 2000 and 2015”, said Minister van Rooyen.
The 23 resident ambassadors were also interested in the coming Local government elections scheduled for 03 August 2016. The questions raised were confined to the free and fairness of the polls, despite issues like the addresses, ongoing protests, SABC editorial policy and the constitutional court judgement.
In response the Minister assured the EU delegates that the 2016 Local government Elections are important for the country and that we are proud about the growth of our democracy which continues to reflect the will of the people. The Minister also spoke about the measures and mechanisms put in place to for government to engage with the publics. It is through this platforms that we are able to understand the needs of communities and respond quickly to them. The above also speaks to the growth and maturity of our democracy which is also once again reflected by over 200 political parties and over 61 000 candidates that have been registered to participate in the coming local government elections.
With all plans in place and implementation of some strategies already being at an advanced stage, as government we are confident that South Africa will deliver yet another incident free, safe and fair elections on 03 August 2016.
The Minister further welcomed the commitment of the EU representatives to support and collaborate further in strengthening our democracy and ensuring the development of our people. This included cooperating around the programme focused on the capacity building of incoming councillors. The Minister indicated that this programme will go a long way it assisting the new councillors to understand the complexity of the system and how it operates. This will then ensure that we have an effective and efficient functioning municipalities.
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