Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

Address by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the 6th SALGA National Conference

“Consolidating the role of local government in rebuilding local communities to meet their social, economic and material needs”

6th SALGA National Conference: Inspiring Service Delivery

Cape Town ICC

2 March 2022

Programme Director

Excellency the President of the Republic, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Acting President of SALGA, your Worship Councillor Deon De Vos.

Our host and Executive Mayor of Cape Town, your worship Councillor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Former Presidents and Chairpersons of SALGA Deputy Minister Nkadimeng, MEC Tau and Mr Thabo Manyoni.

Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Honourable Amos Masondo.

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli. 

Mayors, Chief Whips and Councillors.

Former Mayor of our nation’s capital, Father Smangaliso Mkhatswa.

International guests

Ngokuzithoba ngibingelela usihlalo we National House of Traditional and

Directors General and senior government officials.

Distinguished guests.

Allow me to start by congratulating the newly elected and returning councillors who hold with them the hopes and confidence of our people. Thank you to the organisers of this 6th National Conference of SALGA for inviting us to share thoughts on inspiring service delivery, in the context of an ever-evolving world. By convening in this manner and fashion after every five years to take stock and elect new leadership you stand to confirm what former President Samora Machel once said: “The state must be the first to be organized and totally committed to serving the interests of the people. We must always be clear that the example is set at the top.”

Under the leadership and presidency of former councillors Tau and Nkadimeng as well as acting President De Vos and deputy presidents, we have seen a better organised local government with SALGA as its principal vehicle. In your five-year tenure, you have raised the national and international profile of our local governments. You have also taken up leadership at both the continental and global bodies, to unite our local governments in action. We were therefore privileged to host the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) World Congress and World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in Durban.

On that occasion, we were able to solidify our agreements with the International Organisation of Local and Regional Governments (ICLEI) Africa. This will contribute to transforming and building community resilience as we localise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the priority programmes of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

Our work has been disturbed and in certain instances halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I can assure you all that our government does not want to keep the imposed restrictions any minute longer than necessary. We must therefore continue with the measures to mask, social distance and vaccinate, so that we may get to the point of normality much sooner.

Your worships, under yours’s and previous executives’ leadership we have continued our collective commitment to serving the interests for the people. This has included the expansion of services to our people for whom we exist. In this regard we have recorded progress wherein:

  • Just under 5 million more water consumer units have been built between 2002 and 2020;
  • There are over 13,8 million households receiving water meaning over 88% of South Africans now have access to piped and clean water; (it must worry us that 12% do not have access)
  • 17 million households have access to sanitation which is a 20% increase since 2002;
  • 7,8 million more households are connected to the main electricity supply, indicating an almost 10% increase since 2002, and
  • 10,3 million units and households had their solid waste removed at least once a week by 2018, indicating an increase from 56,7% in 2002 to 66,4% in 2018, however, this has now declined to 61,5%.

However, despite this mixed progress, poverty persists, hunger is becoming a defining feature in our communities, inequality is growing, and unemployment is on the increase. This has been made worse by COVID. According to the World Bank’s latest Poverty and Inequality Brief although there was a reduction in poverty between 2011 and 2015 more people have since slipped into poverty, meaning that over 30,3 million people are living in poverty. This is about 55.5% of the population.

The same Poverty and Inequality Brief also informs us that there 13,8 million people or 25% of the population are living in hunger, the vast majority being children and female. The World Bank’s report titled “Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa” further draws a link between poverty, hunger, and inequality. It elaborates on these linkages and informs us that, there is an increase in inequality. These uniquely South African multi-dimensions of inequality include:

(1) Wealth Inequality – wherein the top 10% controls 75% of the wealth,

(2) Consumption inequality –South Africa’s poorest household’s expenditure growth is much slower than the rest of the population,

(3) Wage inequality – wherein the top 10% receive half of all wage income and the bottom 50% receive just 12% of all wages,

(4) Inequality of opportunity index is high with most South Africans having no opportunities to progress into a better life, and

(5) Intergenerational mobility is insignificant thus leading to the intergenerational and vicious cycle of poverty, inequality, and hunger.

As a consequence of these dimensions, poverty and inequality in South Africa are a function of gender, race, and locality. Thus the World Bank Report further observes that “women have far worse employment prospects than men—around 37% of working-age women are employed compared to 50% of men. Youth unemployment is also high, consistently around 50% [and] employment does not necessarily reduce poverty: about 35% of those who are employed are in households living below any of the poverty lines.”

Therefore we must use this national conference to chart high roads towards addressing these challenges. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) had anticipated these high roads to be ones that “open up previously suppressed economic and human potential… to increase output in all sectors of the economy…” Such high roads, according to the RDP, should have been linked by “an infrastructural programme that [provides] access to modern and effective services like electricity, water, telecommunications, transport, health, education and training for all people”.

Unfortunately, South Africa is still facing the twin challenges of inadequate supply and a huge skills mismatch. The mismatch is not only in society in general but also affects local government thus challenging the growth in our economy. Thus, a public education campaign is required which should be complemented by a skills development collaboration amongst ourselves as well as the Sector Education and Training Authorities and the private sector. This collaboration must mobilise and train the 9,1million young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs). This will require that our collaboration is rooted in the skills revolution with particular biases to the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) areas. For instance, of the 2 000 municipal engineers only 850 are registered, this requires some joint actions amongst us. 

Our collaboration must also address the concerns raised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which found that fewer than 1 in 3 engineering graduates and fewer than 1 in 5 computer graduates are female. Much of this has to do with gender norms, stereotypes, biases, and sexual harassment. In virtually, every sector that our economy needs to grow there are few women leaders and managers these include (but are not limited to) the financing, creative, innovations, agriculture, and oceans sectors. Even where they have broken the glass ceiling women earn far less than their male counterparts, especially in the private sector.

Thus our society-wide skills development collaboration must address gender equality. So should all of the programmes of our municipalities. If we are to address poverty, inequality and unemployment, we must address its gender dimensions. To this end we must employ gender-responsive budgeting and planning as a core of our work because if we don’t plan, budget and measure it, we will not achieve it. This is not a matter of charity but a developmental imperative that must also include young people. This will also improve the performance of our economy.

Programme Director, let me also correct a myth that seems to believe that we have many governments. We only have one government with three spheres that are distinctive, interrelated and interdependent. Thus we must continually acknowledge that there is no community that is national all communities are local, that is why we must all have an interest in local government.

The White Paper on Local Government elaborates on the developmental role of local government and the centrality of its role in facilitating Local Economic Development. In this and other roles, Section 154 of the Constitution calls on “the national government and provincial governments, by legislative and other measures, [to] support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and to perform their functions”. The White Paper further calls for long-range planning in 25 Year windows and plans.

Thus, we are implementing the District Development Model in action in the Eastern Seaboard, starting with four districts of Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, Harry Gwala and Ugu, in the Eastern Cape and KZN. Through the multi sphere and interdepartmental steering committee, we are working towards declaring the area a region. This will avail the much-needed resources so that we can turn the fortunes of those largely rural communities. We hope we can work together, with the incoming leadership of SALGA, to develop this area and other strategic areas in our country.

Programme Director, the approaches adopted by the DDM seek to reinforce the developmental role anticipated by Section 152 of the Constitution which calls for the provision of democratic and accountable government for local communities, wherein it should, (1) facilitate for service provision in a sustainable manner; (2) promote social and economic development; (3) promote a safe and healthy environment; and (4) encourage the involvement of communities.

Our own reflections show a correlation between more urban areas, settlement densities and better service delivery. Our view is that these are a function of three main factors:

  1. Economies of scale – wherein it is easier and cheaper to deliver the same level of service in higher density areas than in lower-density areas, for instance delivering services in Gauteng is cheaper and more manageable than in the Northern Cape as we look at budget and resources we must factor this in;
  2. Technical capacity – larger urban areas are likely to have better access to experienced and skilled staff and service providers than rural areas; and
  3. Financial capacity – because of the persistent effects of apartheid economic and spatial planning economic activity and wealth tends to be concentrated in cities and towns, resulting in a better revenue base for urban municipalities.

Thankfully, we have gradually seen the equitable share being responsive to these and other infrastructure needs in municipalities. In the 2018/19 financial year, the local government equitable share was 8,9% and it has steadily grown to the current 9,1% with a projected 10,2% by the 2024/25 financial year. This also includes a ringfenced 10% for maintenance and repairs, with a portion of which can be used to develop asset and maintenance management plans. This will go a long way in addressing the ageing infrastructure and will contribute to more effective and service orientated municipalities.

Programme Director, through the consultation with the communities, Kings and Traditional Leaders in those areas, we have gathered important lessons with regards to our approach to local governance and development. For us our chosen development trajectory ought to carry with it an African soul and outlook, thus we must pursue African solutions for our challenges. This ought to be based on the age-old Ubuntu philosophies which promote both equity and equality whilst paying careful attention to environmental sustainability, inclusivity, and the connection of our people. Thus, this next term of office must pay greater attention to the safety and security of women and children as well as localised procurement, renewable energy, and ease of travel.

The coming into effect of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act on 01 April 2021, dictates that we must facilitate better working relations and collaboration with the institutions of traditional leadership. For their part, the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders has developed an Invest Rural Master Plan. Which plan sets key priorities and sets aside over 1 million hectares of land to address the aspirations of the rural masses. We must find ways to dovetail our actions with this important priority programme and desist from competing or suppressing these important institutions of governance.

For our part, an Inter-Ministerial Task Team has been established under the leadership of the Deputy President, with COGTA as the secretariat. The IMTT will also involve Premiers so that we may facilitate such collaborations whilst resolving some of the challenges confronting the institutions of traditional leaders.

Your worships, our interactions have also pointed to the wearing patience of our people. People are becoming impatient because of unfulfilled promises or the lack of feedback and communication. We must therefore employ a people-centred approach that entails responsive and dynamic communication. This means we must be responsive and maintain a two-way line of communication with communities. Where one cannot address the challenges, one must be honest and seek alternative and innovative solutions to the challenges. Remember, we all serve at the behest of our people, and so it is their quality of life we should seek to improve. Sometimes some of us think it’s the quality of our lives that matters more. It is not correct not to answer a call because one does not know the number how are to know the numbers of all people who need assistance. Those phones are there to communicate with the public.

The reality we face is that our local government structures are not sufficiently capacitated to deal with today’s challenges and our future. To this end, we must build and maintain capable and committed administrations which can deliver a higher level of performance and accountability. This implies that the interference of the political realm in administrative issues, including procurement and the appointment of non-executive management staff ought to be a thing of the past. We must remember that is the people’s money and that corruption erodes the people’s trust in government.

We must therefore pursue only that which will bring coherent service delivery and development outcomes, which will improve the quality of life of our community members. 

To get there we must therefore ensure that we have the right people, in the right places, with the right qualifications who are sufficient motivation and committed to driving our superordinate vision of a better life for all. Thus a key priority is the strengthening of capacity of local government. Consequently, current allocations to local government include a reviewed capacity building system which is to be driven together with SALGA, COGTA, the National Treasury, the FFC, DBSA and NSG, which is anchored on

  • A clear focus on developing capabilities, including skills in key areas and sectors that can unlock our local economies, these include town planning, agriculture, environmental management, ICT, development planning and Local Economic Development.
  • Improving the broader environment in which local government employees and supporting institutions work and the processes that they use.
  • A problem‐led approach, implying that solutions are tailored to the specific municipality, rather than generic recommendations.
  • The inclusion of municipalities in designing and implementing the system. And
  • An integrated approach, rather than separating capacity‐building responsibilities across different supporting institutions.

This will also assist in moving away from the current model of tendering and outsourcing everything. By building sufficient supervisory capacity such that we can avoid shoddy workmanship. Ultimately our approaches and partnerships must ensure that our communities are vibrant, resilient, sustainable, prosperous, connected, cohesive, non-sexist and climate-smart communities.

In conclusion, we wish to highlight the importance of local economic development, because it is the only way in which we can ensure that municipalities raise the necessary revenue. It will also ensure that government is not the sole employer or provider of income opportunities, because this has been the source of tensions and killings at the local sphere. Thus we must apply ourselves to better understand the endowments of each district so that we may turn our communities into vibrant, resilient, sustainable, prosperous, connected, cohesive, non-sexist and climate-smart communities.

We take this opportunity to once again thank the outgoing SALGA Executive with whom we have forged excellent working relations. We believe that the CEO and the staff of SALGA will continue on that journey. We also look forward to strengthening our relations with the soon to be elected leadership so that we may reach the next and most impactful level of development.

I thank you