Keynote Address at South African Local Government Association Members Assembly, Cape Town International Convention Centre - 28 November 2013
I bring you the warm greetings of the Minister Lechesa Tsenoli, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs who is attending to the BRICS Urbanisation Forum and Friendship Cities taking place in Durban. Hopefully he will join this august gathering later today.
This SALGA National Members Assembly takes place as South Africa prepares to celebrate 20 years of democracy and to hold our fifth democratic elections at national and provincial level.
During these two decades, South Africa has made remarkable progress in the transition from apartheid to democracy. This transition has been peaceful despite the country's history of violent conflict and dispossession.
In nearly every facet of life, advances are being made in building an inclusive society, rolling back the shadow of history and broadening opportunities for all.
South Africa has been able to build the institutions necessary for a democratic and transformative state.
The Constitution enshrines a rights-based approach and envisions a prosperous, non-racial, non-sexist democracy that belongs to all its people.
Healing the wounds of the past and redressing the inequities caused by centuries of racial exclusion are constitutional imperatives.
Access to services has been broadened, the economy has been stabilised and a non-racial society has begun to emerge.
Millions who were previously excluded have access to education, water, electricity, health care, housing and social security.
More people are working today than in 1994, the poverty rate has declined and average incomes have grown steadily in real terms.
However, nineteen years into democracy, South Africa remains a highly unequal society where too many people live in poverty and too few work.
The quality of school education for many black learners is poor. The apartheid spatial divide continues to dominate the landscape. A large proportion of young people feel that the odds are stacked against them. And the legacy of apartheid continues to determine the life opportunities for the vast majority. These immense challenges can only be addressed through a step change in the country's performance.
To accelerate progress, deepen democracy and build a more inclusive society, South Africa must translate political emancipation into economic wellbeing for all. It is up to all South Africans to fix the future, starting today.
Our National Development Plan is a response to these challenges and it envisions a South Africa where everyone feels free yet bounded to others; where everyone embraces their full potential, a country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work.
Realising such a society will require transformation of the economy and focused efforts to build the country's capabilities. To eliminate poverty and reduce inequality, the economy must grow faster and in ways that benefit all South Africans.
But a plan is only as credible as its delivery mechanism is viable. We need a capable developmental state to implement our National Development Plan.
A developmental state needs to tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality. A South African developmental state must intervene to support and guide development so that benefits accrue across society, especially to the poor, and build consensus so that long-term national interest trumps short-term, sectional concerns.
A developmental state needs to be capable, but a capable state does not materialise by decree, nor can it be legislated or waved into existence by declarations.
It has to be built, brick by brick, institution by institution, and sustained and rejuvenated over time.
It requires leadership, sound policies, skilled managers and workers, clear lines of accountability, appropriate systems, and consistent and fair application of rules.
The vision of developmental local government is central to many of the objectives of our National Development Plan.
However, municipalities have often found that expectations exceed their administrative and financial ability. This has led to a loss of confidence.
This has contributed to the erroneous and very destructive perception that local government is an unmitigated and irredeemable disaster area.
Often in response to the problems facing municipalities, the temptation has been to issue more regulations and legislation for local government.
Whilst regulation is necessary, national government needs to shift towards developing a more enabling framework that focuses on developing the systems to strengthen local government.
This should be accompanied by strengthened national and provincial support and oversight for local government.
Only by engaging intensively with local government can national and provincial departments develop an in-depth understanding of the challenges.
National and provincial departments have a constitutional right to intervene, and they should be prepared to utilise this when necessary.
However, they are less likely to need to do so and more likely to intervene effectively if they are already engaged in working with the municipality to improve performance.
Municipalities also need to strengthen their commitment to improving efficiency and effectiveness, avoiding wasting funds on non-priority expenditure and collecting all the revenues that are due.
We need to locate this discussion in the context of developing a more pragmatic and proactive approach to managing the intergovernmental system to ensure a better fit between responsibility and capacity.
The different spheres of government are interdependent and we need to find ways of ensuring they work together more effectively.
The state needs to improve its management of the system, including mediating agreements between district and local municipalities where there is duplication or conflict over the allocation of responsibilities and resources.
Provinces should focus on their core functions and develop their capacity to support and oversee local government.
The constitutional framework allows for more differentiation in the allocation of powers and functions, and this should be used to ensure a better fit between the capacity and responsibilities of provinces and municipalities.
The existing system can be improved, with clarification of responsibilities in the areas of housing, water, sanitation, electricity and public transport.
Large cities should be given greater fiscal and political powers to coordinate human settlement upgrading, transport and spatial planning.
In other areas, regional utilities could provide services on behalf of less resourced municipalities, but this must be led by municipalities to avoid undermining democratic accountability for service delivery. There are five particular issues that need to be addressed if South Africa is to move its intergovernmental relations onto a more constructive plain:
- improve clarity on roles and responsibilities in a differentiated system;
- promote regionalisation as a response to capacity constraints;
- develop a coherent set of powers for metropolitan municipalities;
- adopt a more focused role for provinces;
- a proactive approach to identifying and resolving problems.
At the heart of these priorities is the need to clarify the division of roles and functions, and ensure disagreements are resolved quickly and effectively.
This will make coordination and cooperation easier, reducing the areas of potential conflict.
Trust and mutual understanding are required to achieve constructive intergovernmental relations.
The Constitution refers to the three spheres of government as “distinctive, interdependent and interrelated”. No sphere can succeed on its own.
The Constitution emphasises the role of national and provincial government in supporting local government, and stresses that this role goes beyond simply producing legislation and regulations.
Having regard to these issues, Programme Director, SALGA is a critical strategic partner of the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The capacitation and support of municipalities is vital to the delivery of its mandate. The successful delivery of government services is totally reliant on strong, efficient and effective municipalities.
During the adoption of the Strategic Plan of Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, on the 06 to the 09 September 2013 at Birchwood, Boksburg, SALGA made a call to the Department to put all “hands on deck” to address:
- A local government policy and fiscal framework that requires review in light of challenges experienced by the sector.
- Leadership and governance challenges including responsiveness and accountability to communities. • Financial and fiscal management. • Varied performance across municipalities in delivering basic services.
- Varied performance across municipalities in relation to growing local economies.
- The legacy of the continuation of apartheid spatial development patterns and inequity.
- A lack of human resource capital to ensure professional administrations, and positive relations between labour, management and councils.
- The absence of a differentiated approach to municipalities.
- I am happy to report to this gathering that these areas are captured in SALGA’s 2012 to 2017 Strategic Performance Plan, and have also influenced the outcome of the Departmental strategic planning session, in mapping out its programme of action for 2014 to 2019.
In addition, it is also the joint responsibility of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and SALGA to strengthen municipal capacities to deliver services effectively. Several areas of possible collaboration have been identified, including amongst others, efforts to:
- Institute relevant training, and the prioritisation of capacity building in critical areas, to deal with the challenge of scarce skills.
- Form critical partnerships – for example partnerships with professional bodies and institutions.
- Improve the quality of management and administration in municipalities.
- Address the challenge of leadership – and minimise political interference.
- Strengthen the capacity of district municipalities, especially in rural areas, through the adoption of a shared service model.
- Collaboration in the development of Local Government performance indicators - impact indicators, streamline reporting requirements.
- Review MSA municipal planning and performance regulations in order to clarify the reporting timeframes, and
- Provide dedicated support to municipalities experiencing service deliver backlogs.
The Municipal Systems Act was amended in 2011 in order to harmonise norms and standards in human resource practices in municipalities, to ensure that proper, experienced and knowledgeable people with the correct skills are employed in our municipalities.
This will also go a long way to ensure that we make local government an “employer of choice” by developing a well-oiled engine room for service delivery in a form of sound municipal administration.
The Regulations to the Municipal Systems Act are expected to be rolled out for implementation in January 2014. This is also in line with the imperatives of the National Development Plan, aimed at building a capable state.
The Department of Cooperative Governance is also in the process of finalising the appointment of members of the Municipal Demarcation Board, to assume office by February 2014, and amendments to the Municipal Demarcation Act are being considered by the Department to address issues of public participation on demarcations processes, which has lately become a contentious issue for some of the affected communities. This has resulted in protests in some municipalities.
Government recognizes and respects the right of every individual citizen to engage in peaceful protest and demonstration.
However, we condemn unreservedly any acts of violence, vandalism and criminality committed under the guise of service delivery concerns.
President Zuma said in his State fo the National Address this year that: “Our Constitution is truly one of our greatest national achievements. Everything that we do as a government is guided by our Constitution and its vision of the society we are building. We call on all citizens to celebrate, promote and defend our Constitution. Our Bill of Rights guarantees that “everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions”.
We therefore call on our people to exercise their rights to protest in a peaceful and orderly manner. It is unacceptable when people’s rights are violated by perpetrators of violent actions, such as actions that lead to injury and death of persons, damage to property and the destruction of valuable public infrastructure.
We are duty bound to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic. We will spare no effort in doing so. For this reason, I have instructed the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster to put measures in place, with immediate effect, to ensure that any incidents of violent protest are acted upon, investigated and prosecuted. The citizens of our country have a right to expect that their democratic state will exercise its authority in defence of the Constitution that so many struggled so long and hard for. We cannot disappoint this expectation.
Let me hasten to add that government departments at all levels must work closely with communities and ensure that all concerns are attended to before they escalate. That responsibility remains. We are a caring government.” In this regard we must also give serious attention to the fact that local government is conceived as the most participatory sphere of government.
Participation is critical for democratising governance processes and ensuring local government remains responsive to its citizens.
However, participation is often a formulaic exercise run by consultants and citizens have little confidence in the value of engagement.
Where municipal officials outsource the writing of IDPs to consultants, this reduces the likelihood of councillors and municipal employees being fully committed to delivering on the commitments in the IDP and so also reduces the incentives for citizens to engage with the process.
First, the IDP process needs to be led by the municipality and not outsourced to consultants.
Second, participation in IDP processes needs to be deliberative and engage communities in prioritising and making trade-offs.
Both of these objectives will be easier to achieve if IDPs are more narrowly focused on the core priorities of local government.
Third, local government needs to engage people in their own spaces. Elected representatives and administrative officials should be prepared to go to community organisations, housing associations or business associations rather than expect them to come to governmental forums.
Community development workers have an important role to play in facilitating these engagements.
These shifts would help local government to focus on citizens’ priorities. It is also important that civil society and citizen groups make use of the data that is already available in order to hold local government accountable.
Apartheid left a terrible spatial legacy. While about 3.2 million households have benefited from new housing, and services and infrastructure have been provided to many commun ities, limited progress has been made in reversing entrenched spatial inequities. In some instances, post-1994 policies have reinforced the spatial divides by placing low-income housing on the periphery of cities.
Reshaping South Africa’s cities, towns and rural settlements is a complex, long-term project, requiring major reforms and political will. It is, however, a necessary project given the enormous social, environmental and financial costs imposed by existing spatial divides.
The recently released discussion document, Towards an Integrated Urban Development Framework, is a response to this challenge that was well captured in the following call by President Zuma in this year's SONA:
"We should also remain mindful of rapid urbanisation that is taking place. The Census Statistics reveal that 63% of the population are living in urban areas. This is likely to increase to over 70% by 2030. Apartheid spatial patterns still persist in our towns and cities. Municipalities alone cannot deal with the challenges. We need a national approach. While rural development remains a priority of government, it is crucial that we also develop a national integrated urban development framework to assist municipalities to effectively manage rapid urbanisation. As part of implementing the National Development Plan, all three spheres of government need to manage the new wave of urbanisation in ways that also contribute to rural development."
We commend SALGA for the valuable role that it has played in developing the discussion document and the Integrated Urban Development Framework.
Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests - there is no doubt in my mind that SALGA and CoGTA together with its other stakeholder-partners are able to build a capable developmental state. This is the promise we have made to the citizens of our beautiful country.
Those of us who occupy positions of leadership within SALGA, CoGTA and most importantly, leadership in municipalities, should at all times appreciate the fact that we are indeed privileged to have been given this role.
History will judge us for the quality of leadership we display. Ours is not an easy job and that is why we need each other, now and in the future.
Remember that no candle loses any of its light by lighting another candle – on the contrary, many candles give much more light.
With this in mind I ask you, to focus your attention on devising ways by which we can cooperate more effectively with one another – taking light from where there is light, and shining it where there is no light. If we do this with a good heart, I have no doubt that the partnership between CoGTA and SALGA will open a bright new chapter in the history of successful local government in our country.
I thank you.