Minister Thembi Nkadimeng

Remarks by Deputy Minister Thembisile Nkadimeng on the occasion of IMATU National Conference

Programme Director

The Executive Mayor of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, Cllr Ald Tania Campbell


The National Executive Council of IMATU

National Office Bearers

Regional Committees

National Office staff

Members of the Conference

Esteemed guest

Ladies and gentlemen


Good Day,

Let me thank you for inviting me to the 6th national conference of the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU).

We are back to Birchwood Hotel for another conference following the one that was held at the same time in 2016.

At the time in 2016, the then Minister of CoGTA said – “the system of local government needs a committed workforce with the necessary capacity and experience to help deliver basic services to communities”.

We are meeting in the month of March, which is nationally commemorated as Human Rights Month. During this time, we remember the events in Sharpeville on March 21, 1960, when police opened fire on a peaceful crowd of young activists, children, and old men and women who had assembled in protest of the Pass laws, killing 69 people and injuring 180 others. Sharpeville residents, as well as residents of other townships such as Soweto, Langa, Boipatong, and Bisho, had had enough of the infamous system and began a heroic struggle against it in order to attain freedom, democracy, and peace. Indeed, this day was a day when ordinary people stood up in unison to declare their rights.

When accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960, Chief Albert Luthuli, an exceptional and outstanding leader who led a militant, peaceful struggle for human rights and a non-racial, non-sexist, free, just, and democratic South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, remarked, “it is idle to speak of our country as being in peace, because there can be no peace in any part of the world where there are people oppressed.” Chief Luthuli and Martin Luther King Jnr jointly implored the international community to isolate South Africa by imposing sanctions and boycotts on the apartheid state, bringing it to its knees.

As a result, the first paragraph of our Constitution appropriately honors freedom fighters like Chief Luthuli who committed their life to the liberation of our country and people.

This year’s commemoration of Human Rights Month coincides with the 26th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution which enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

Even more pertinent to this gathering, Section 18 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to freedom of association. In terms of section 23 of the Constitution everyone has the right to fair labour practices, and every worker has the right to form and join a trade union. The right to freedom of association and the right of every worker to form and join a trade union is further expressed in section 4 (1) of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995, which guarantees every employee the right to join a trade union.

As workers in the local government sphere, we should also remember that, the very same Constitution in Section 152 (1) enshrines the right to access basic municipal services by our communities. We therefor are all obliged by the Constitution to provide a democratic and accountable government to local communities; to ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner; to promote social and economic development; to promote a safe and healthy environment; and to encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations in the matters of local government.

This important conference is held every five years as an indication of internal democracy and will once again serve as a platform to chart a way forward for your respective organisation.

IMATU, having one of the largest membership, and being the largest politically independent trade union in the local government sector is an important role player in this sphere of government. You all have a role to play in harnessing the capacity of municipalities to deliver services. After all, we are all united behind a common goal of ensuring that our communities truly enjoy the fruits of democracy through efficient and effective functioning municipalities.

Delivering the 2022 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa committed, as the 6th administration’s foremost priority, to build a capable, ethical and developmental state that will work for the people. We, in this regard, look forward to the finalisation of a framework for the professionalisation of the public service.

Having one of the largest membership and being the largest politically independent trade union in the local government sector, IMATU has the potential to play a critical  role in harnessing the capacity of municipalities to deliver services. After all, we are all united behind a common goal of ensuring that our communities truly enjoy the fruits of democracy through efficient and effective municipalities.

Delivering the 2022 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa committed, as the 6th administration’s foremost priority, to build a capable, ethical and developmental state that will work for the people. We, in this regard, look forward to the finalisation of a framework for the professionalisation of the public service.

The framework document draws an important distinction between being professional and professionalism (which are the practices, conduct, values and behaviour regardless of training, qualifications and levels of responsibility) with the concept of professionalization (which is about changing individual attitudes, behaviour and performance towards serving the public).

To be included in this framework will be tighter measures for recruitment of public servants, continuous professional development through the National School of Government and partnerships between state bodies, professional associations and universities.

But, what does professionalising local government mean?

Simply put, Professionalising local government means having qualified people who know what they are doing and are fully equipped to perform their jobs with diligence. In relation to this, one of the key recommendations made in the draft framework is that the public service must be depoliticised. 

The review of the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill is ongoing and it seeks amongst others to professionalise local public administration by insulating senior municipal officials from political interference; provide for procedures and competency criteria for appointment of municipal managers and other senior managers; provide  for the consequences of appointments made in contravention of the Bill; prohibit municipal managers and other senior managers from holding political office in political party and promote an ethical local public administration through regulation of the employment of municipal employees who have been dismissed for misconduct.

 Professionalisation also entails understanding that the cornerstone of a developing government is corruption-free public services. Let me remind us all that corruption also speaks to intentional failure or refusing to deliver services to our communities.

 We are working around the clock to improve the whistleblowing system especially for the protection of whistle-blowers as one key way of addressing the cancer of corruption that is rooted in many of our institutions. The fight against corruption is real and it stands between us and the South Africa envisaged by the National Development Plan.

 As we recover from the devastation of Covid-19, we have to leave no one behind. For local government, leaving no one behind means fostering a culture of good governance and help our municipalities to deliver on our mandate of serving our communities.

 We must ask ourselves if we have been cooperating for the betterment of our communities. If not, we must devote the next five years to establishing a strong local government, since a strong local government ensures job stability for the workers whose interests you have vowed to protect.

 If we fail to support our municipalities in delivering on their mandate, all of our hard work and achievements in ensuring that local government becomes really democratic and serves the people of South Africa will be in vain.

 As an institution with democratically elected leadership serving the interests of its members who want to see better and improved living conditions, you must also promote the welfare and improvement of local government and assist municipalities to realise our developmental agenda as a country. With this in mind, it is incumbent upon us here today to create a caring local government capable of meeting our communities’ developmental needs.

 With councils constituted across the country following the 2021 Local Government Elections, a new five-year term of democratic local government has begun and I urge you today to work with your municipalities and most importantly hold them accountable. Do not hesitate to also nudge them in the right direction where they are not working towards the agreed mandate.

We enter this term with strengthened public policies and programmes for local government through instruments like the Municipal Structures Amendment Act (No.3 of 2021) which came into effect on 1 November 2021. The Act seeks to strengthen oversight and governance in local government. Many of the proposed amendments touch on issues that have been prevalent in local government for the longest of time. The Act, for the first time, brings into being an enforceable revised Code of Conduct for Councillors, meaning that accountability is being placed back in the hands of the people.

Our new councillors have been taken through the Integrated Councillor Induction Programme which will assist them to better understand their leadership roles, legislations that are applicable to their sphere of governance, key municipal processes as well as the state of developmental local government and service delivery.

 We have also committed to adopt and lead a programme of building a professional local public administration through the development and implementation of a job competency framework for local government by 2023. On 20 September 2021, the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, published the Local Government: Municipal Staff Regulations incorporating amongst others the Competency Framework for Mainstream Occupations and Career Streams, fifteen months ahead of the envisaged time.

 As we support municipalities, we want to take you along so that we can together address inadequate and inconsistent service delivery in various areas such water provision, infrastructure built and maintenance. Members of IMATU who work in our municipalities across the country have the chance to interact with us and participate in initiatives that will ultimately improve people’s perceptions of local government.

 As local government is everyone’s business, we are dedicated to working with you to create municipalities that are capable and sustainable. Doing this will bring to life the District Development Model (DDM), that is an all of government and society approach o development. This approach brings together all three spheres of government together with other social partners in every district/metro to grow inclusive local economies and improve the lives of citizens. Most important, the DDM facilitates integrated planning and budgeting across spheres of government and improves integration of national projects at a district level.

 We are making progress in putting the country on a new path of socio-economic and spatial transformation by implementing the DDM. Let me emphasise, for the DDM to be a success, your involvement, participation and support in the affairs of municipalities, is absolute as you are a major role player and stakeholder in our sector. In line with the professionalisation of the public service, it is important to note that the success of the DDM hinges on the appointment of properly qualified senior officials at municipal level to ensure the effective management and provision of services.

 As you work to promote the welfare and improvement of local government in all its facets; develop the efficiency of employees and the services they render; and cultivate a spirit of civic pride let us do so by leaving no one behind.

We have heard the outcry of our communities about the glaring number of public servants who are unqualified for the positions they occupy, the state of municipalities leading to a rise in service delivery protests in many communities across the country. Let us work together to ensure that employees in municipalities render efficient and honest services to the people of our country.

 As I conclude, let me applaud IMATU for continuing to follow the prescripts of collective bargaining agreement as this process assists us to come together and solve issues before there is even a need to embark on an industrial strike. This surely demonstrates the level of maturity in our system as well as the quality of leadership of IMATU.

 Let me also wish you well as you elect representatives who will support the objectives of the union and provide strategic leadership that will surely take you forward in the next term.


I thank you.