30 YEARS LOGO_24 Jan 24 BIG

Programme Directors, Director-General of the Department of Traditional Affairs, Mr Diphofa, and Professor Somadoda Fikeni,

Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Burns-Ncamashe,

Chairperson of the Local Government Ethical Leadership Advisory Committee, Father Simangaliso Mkhatshwa

CEO of the Ethics Institute (TEI), Prof. Deon Rossouw

Head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Ms Shamilla Bathoi,

Chairperson of the Local Government Anti-Corruption Forum and Head of the Special Investigating Unit, Adv. Andy Mothibi

Chairperson of SALGA in Gauteng, Cllr Jongizizwe Dlabathi

Executive Mayor of Mbhashe Local Municipality and Chairperson of the Governance Working Group of SALGA, Cllr Samkelo Janda,

Representatives from the public and private sectors, and civil society

Members of the media

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Good Day,

Thank you all for joining us today at this Summit – that takes place as we mark the beginning of Human Rights Month, a time when we reflect on our journey as a nation and commemorate three decades of progressive human rights. Indeed, it is a privilege to stand before you, but it is also a profound responsibility, one that I do not take lightly.

Gathered here, we cannot overlook the monumental strides we have made as a country since the dark days of apartheid – days that continue to be a pain in our collective memory and our country’s history. We have seen the birth of a vibrant democracy with its children, such as Tintswalo, who have benefited for the past 30 years and will continue to benefit from democracy.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the courageous individuals who dared to challenge oppression and injustice, paving the way for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Knowing the impact of our past on our present communities, it is therefore important to understand why this current government is doing all it can to pursue a more just, inclusive, and fundamentally transformed society. Key to achieving this, is ethical leadership in all spheres of government and in our context, in local government, as I am certain that you will all agree with me that the sphere of local government is at the epicenter of the delivery of human rights.

As we all understand, ethical leadership embodies integrity, accountability, and a commitment to serving the people who have entrusted us with their well-being. It means, for example, acknowledging the injustices of the past, addressing the present challenges, and ensuring that every citizen has access to the basic services they need to thrive. For instance, ethical leadership entails a deep-rooted understanding of the importance to provide clean, running water to our elderly population (abo gogo nabo mkhulu bethu), as this will enable them to take their medication on time and maintain their health and dignity. It could also mean having a holistic comprehension of the intricacies of Local Economic Development (LED), recognizing its role in developing sustainable growth, empowering local businesses, and catalyzing socio-economic progress. Or maybe it could mean that no corruption small or big in the delivery of services to our people and adhering to the principle of treating others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

Over the past 30 years of our democracy, we have witnessed significant progress in advancing human rights and access to basic services. Our democracy has matured, with each election strengthening the voice of the people. We have seen landmark legislation enacted by the current government to safeguard human rights and promote equality. And we have made tangible improvements in expanding access to essential services as reported by the most recent Census by StatsSA.

Yet, despite our achievements, our journey towards a truly just and equitable society is far from complete. We still face deep-rooted inequalities, systemic injustices, and pervasive poverty that continue to marginalize millions of our fellow citizens. As leaders and stakeholders in local government, we must confront these challenges head-on, to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society, and to work tirelessly to build a future where every person, regardless of their background, can thrive. We should, as a collective, ask ourselves, for example, if the people residing in the 66 dysfunctional municipalities are content with the current state of their municipalities and the limitations they face in accessing basic services.

Perhaps a rhetorical question would be:

Are you content as leaders and stakeholders in local government about the delivery of services in our municipalities? If the roles were reversed, would we find ourselves content with what we receive?

Ladies and gentlemen

Allow me to remind you all that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa requires a high standard of professional ethics in public service. This therefore means that public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles as well as the standards for professional ethics enshrined in the Constitution. Furthermore, the Local Government Anti-Corruption Strategy calls upon municipal leadership to always set an ethical tone and lead by example.

As such, we all have a responsibility to create an ethical culture where it will become easier for officials and councilors to do the right thing rather than the wrong thing. As leaders, we must always remember that we create a culture by “what we do and do not do”.

In September 2022, we gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria to launch the Local Government Ethical Leadership Initiative (LGELI) and the Local Government Anti-Corruption Forum (LGACF).

When we launched the two initiatives, we indicated that the LGELI project is in line with the strategic objectives of the Local Government Anti-Corruption Strategy, which put emphasis on ethical leadership and aimed to develop a Code for Ethical Leadership in Local Government.

An urgent need was therefore identified by the four partner organisations for a strategic conversation among municipal leaders and broader societal role-players to systematically identify the ethical challenges of local government leadership, as well as the structural factors that give rise to them. One of the focus areas of the strategy calls for a national dialogue on governance and ethical leadership in local government.

The collaboration by the State and non-state actors underscores the fact that collaboration and shared responsibilities are key to addressing the complex challenges facing our country. Through this partnership, as a government, we are not only taking a stand against unethical conduct and corruption but also promoting a collaborative approach to governance that is essential for sustainable development.

I am glad that a year and a half later we have gathered here today to account for the progress and to launch the Code for Ethical Leadership in Local Government.  It also gives me joy to learn that the Local Government Anti-Corruption Forum continues to function under the leadership of Adv Mothibi, notwithstanding the challenges they still have.

In November 2020, we adopted the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020–2030 to create a South Africa that has:

  • An ethical and accountable state, business, and civil society sectors in which those in positions of power and authority act with integrity.
  • Citizens who respect the rule of law and are empowered to hold those in power to account.
  • Zero tolerance of corruption in any sphere of activity and substantially reduced levels of corruption.

Although there is a lot of work being done by many stakeholders from government, business, and civil society, we are the first to admit that much more needs to be done in the fight against corruption and unethical leadership in the local government sector.

When the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council convened the Anti-Corruption National Dialogue in November 2023, it became very clear from the deliberations that corruption has become institutional, structural, and systematic. Hence, exclusive reliance on criminal law is not sufficient to deal with systematic corruption. Indeed, we agree that there is a need for a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach that emphasize prevention and citizen participation. In our view, ethical leadership is the missing piece of the puzzle.

Consequence Management and Accountability

Ethical leadership is key if we are to address the lack of consequence management at all spheres of government including the triple challenge of inequality, poverty, and unemployment facing our country. The Constitution of South Africa, 1996, the local government legislation and supporting regulations, give guidance to municipalities on how good governance and accountability should take place, as well as how consequence management should be managed. However, the Auditor General South Africa (AGSA) has on several occasions highlighted that little action, if any, is being taken to address poor performance and transgressions at municipalities.

Allegations of fraud and corruption, ineffective governance structures, the prevalence of an unethical culture, irregular appointments, procurement irregularities, and the lack of consequences for wrongdoing in some of our municipalities remain a matter of serious concern to all of us. The lack of consequence management, despite persistent transgressions, is a clear indication of work that still awaits us in the fight against corruption and unethical conduct.

Part of the solution must be to instill a culture of ethics, integrity, and accountability at all levels. We must think deeply about what needs to happen as part of entrenching this culture.

Protection of Whistleblowers and Witnesses

Whistleblowing is an essential weapon in the fight against corruption and unethical conduct. The subject of whistleblower protection is one area where, we as a government, need to do more. There needs to be much more done to safeguard whistle-blowers since they are essential in the battle against corruption.

There are several proposals from the National Anti-Corruption Strategy on how we can improve in this area. We appreciate the work being done by the Department of Justice, DPSA, and law enforcement agencies to enhance measures aimed at the protection of whistleblowers and witnesses. My appeal is that we must move with speed.


If we are to succeed, the role that leadership plays is key, leadership at all levels must lead by example. Part of the preventative solution must be to instill a culture of ethics, integrity, and accountability at all levels. The Audit Outcomes as well as the State of Local Government Report confirms the correlation between failures in governance and leadership instability both at administration and political levels.

Municipal leadership should:

  • promote a culture of ethical business practices,
  • instill a culture of accountability and political will to realise change and create a conducive environment for effective oversight structures,
  • set a tone of zero tolerance for poor performance and transgressions,
  • evaluate the functionality of oversight structures beyond the number of meetings convened, which may include how committees discharge its responsibilities to perform the delegated work,
  • process reports/investigations within reasonable timeframes.

Database of dismissed officials

One of the challenges we face is unethical leaders who are moving from one municipality to another including movement between spheres. This happens intra-provincially and inter-provincially.

Let me take this opportunity and indicate that the Department is currently administering a database that is used to prevent dismissed municipal staff from being employed in municipalities before a prescribed period of rehabilitation has lapsed. The purpose of this database is to support municipalities in upholding high standards of ethics, and strengthen the oversight role of the MECs for local government and the Minister through the maintenance of a record of all staff members dismissed for misconduct, or resigned before the finalisation of the disciplinary proceedings to avert sanction.

When municipalities conduct screening of candidates, they request the Department to advise whether the shortlisted candidates appear on the record of staff dismissed and staff members who resigned before finalisation of disciplinary proceedings kept by the Department.

In this regard, we appreciate the work being done by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and other key Departments to establish a central register that will also include those dismissed from national, provincial, and SOEs into one database.

Collaboration with National School of Government and other key entities

The promotion of transparency, integrity, and accountability is key to ensuring good governance in municipalities. We are, in this regard, participating in the GIZ Transparency, Integrity, and Accountability programme. To this end, the DCOG in collaboration with National School of Government (NSG), SALGA, the SIU, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Offices of the Premiers, Provincial Departments of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTAs) are embarking on a process to customize and adopt the online Ethics in the Public Service course for local government. The course, in its current form, is more relevant to officials at national and provincial departments. Through this intervention, it is envisaged that there will be a better understanding of ethical standards at local government level, how to apply these ethical standards in the workplace, and how to identify and respond to ethical dilemmas. It is expected that once amended, the free training course will to some extent assist in terms of promoting ethics and integrity in municipalities. This is one of the initiatives being implemented under the Local Government Anti-Corruption Forum. The customisation of this course will be finalised within the next six months.

Communication and Awareness

As part of institutionalizing ethics and integrity at our municipalities, we will continue to roll out anti-corruption and ethics awareness campaigns under the auspices of the Local Government Anti-Corruption Forum (LGACF), in line with the District Development Model (DDM) in collaboration with SALGA, AGSA, provinces and law enforcement agencies. The objective is to raise awareness on corruption, collaborations, and the reporting of allegations of corrupt activities. The target audience for these campaigns is Councilors and officials.  

Ethics Infrastructure

To succeed, it is important to invest in the Ethics Infrastructure which includes ensuring that we have functional Ethics Committees and that Ethics Officers and Ethics Champions should be supported to drive ethics programmes at municipalities. 

Interventions introduced through amendments to the Municipal Structures Act

Amendments to the Municipal Structures Act introduced on 1 November 2021 upscaled oversight and accountability at municipal councils. All municipalities are now required to establish Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs) to promote oversight, transparency, accountability, good governance, effective financial management, and the proper management of public resources in municipalities.

Municipal office-bearers, that is Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Whips, Members of EXCO, and officials, are prohibited from being members of MPAC. This is to ensure that the Committee is structured in a manner that will enable it to exercise proper oversight over the management of public funds and to hold the executive accountable.

The municipal council must determine the functions of the MPAC, which must include reviewing the reports from the Auditor-General, and management and audit committees, and then make recommendations to the municipal council. The MPAC can also, subject to the direction of the municipal council, investigate and report to the municipal council on any matter affecting the municipality.

Importantly, MPAC reports must be submitted to the Speaker who must table such reports in the next meeting of the municipal council. This will ensure that accountability is not undermined by instances whereby MPAC reports do not reach the Council for appropriate action.

The amendments also migrated the Code of Conduct for Councillors (“the Code”) from the Systems Act into the Structures Act. This was considered necessary to fit within the greater scheme of the provisions in the Structures Act. The Speaker has the express authority to ensure compliance in the council and council committees with the Code, and if the Speaker thinks that a councilor has breached a provision of the Code, the Speaker may authorise an investigation of the facts and circumstances of the alleged breach.

Very importantly, if a councilor is removed from office by the MEC in terms of the Code, such a councilor is prohibited from standing as a candidate in an election for any municipal council for two years.

The Code also states that a councilor may not vote in favour of or agree to a resolution that is before the council or a committee of the council, which conflicts with any legislation applicable to local government.

To further entrench the culture of accountability and to promote ethical leadership in councils, we issued the Code of Conduct for Councillors Regulations in 2022. These Regulations deal with the following:

  • Prohibition of “walk-outs” during council meetings;
  • Introduction of a gifts register;
  • Outlaws unruly behaviour of councillor’s to maintain decorum in municipal councils;
  • Municipalities to provide adequate support to cater for councillors living with disabilities to ensure active participation in council proceedings;
  • Councillors not to be in arrears for municipal services for more than 3 months.


With all these initiatives, what is important is to ensure that there is no duplication but more collaboration and better coordination amongst the various stakeholders.

As such, we remain hopeful that the partnership between the Department, The Ethics Institute, SALGA, and the Moral Regeneration Movement will assist in resolving some of the ethical challenges we face and contribute towards good municipal governance.

Our aspiration post-Summit and the Code launch is to witness tangible strategies aimed at institutionalizing and executing the Code for Ethical Leadership within the sector. Despite anticipating challenges ahead, our commitment to rooting out unethical practices and corruption while championing good governance at the local government level remains steadfast.

We are confident that we can step up the battle against corruption and advance ethics in local government by working hard and forming partnerships with all the interested parties. Our door remains open.

I wish to end my input by quoting the Father of our Nation, Nelson Mandela, who said that:


I implore all of us to live by these principles of morality, integrity and consistency – it is sure to build a better, South Africa, Africa, and World.

I thank you!