Program Director : Cllr Maxhegwana
Clergy : Bishop Mbethe
NEC and PEC of SALGA
DM of Cogta and all MECs present
Speaker of our Legislature and all MPLs
Our esteemed Mayors and all troika members
House of Traditional Leaders : Ah !! Zwelidumile
Civil Society Organisations
Academia, and the Business Sector
HOD for Cogta, Municipal Managers and CFOs
Members of the media present
Ndiyazibulisela kuni nonke ngalentsasa. As the provincial government we are honored for the invite to come and say a few words in this august gathering of SALGA in our province. We are particularly interested in this session because we have just come out of the 2021 municipal elections.
It is important for us to come and listen to the direction that the local government sector is taking during this term under the stewardship of SALGA. On that note we wish to welcome new Mayors, Speakers, Chief Whips , and councillors into the new positions of responsibility they have been given by our masses.
As the provincial government we stand ready as your partner, to work with you and to support you to fulfil the commitments that were made to the electorate in the 2021 local government elections. All we are asking for as we are about to continue our journey, is that we must Put People First in everything we do. If we all stick to this principle, our intergovernmental relationship will be fruitful for the benefit of the people we serve.
Programme Director and conference delegates, the PEC of SALGA says for the theme of this conference is: “Enhancing the quality of local democracy and professionalising local government”. The PEC further says it is hosting this provincial conference during this month to celebrate the release of our late President Nelson Mandela and believes this theme fits the stature of Madiba. I also believe it does.
Why do I say so?
In 1996, President Nelson Mandela addressed the National Summit for Organised Local Government and communicated an important message that the local government system is a critical component of the South African democratic construct.
He told those gathered at that Summit: “you have a task of doing whatever is necessary to ensure that our new local government system serves the needs of our communities. You have the responsibility to make their voice heard and to provide an effective instrument for them to improve their lives”.
These words from Madiba, which he uttered 26 years ago are still relevant today as we start the 5th term of democratic local government. Colleagues the theme is there to inspire us, it is our just actions that are needed to Enhance the quality of local democracy and to professionalise local government.
During his lifetime, President Nelson Mandela followed his words with action and that is why he is still admired by our people. It is important that if you choose Madiba as your inspiration for this conference, you emulate his values. The values that Madiba is known for throughout the world are that of selfless service, sacrifice, compassion, and human dignity.
So as leaders at the coalface of our Provincial Development, I urge you to find it in your inner selves to take Madiba’s values to heart and practice them in your daily interactions with our people. I can tell you now, if you are selfless, have compassion and humble, you will leave a lasting impression on the communities you serve and that could prolong your years of service.
Again, Colleagues at that National Summit for Organised Local Government, President Nelson Mandela had great advice for councillors which is relevant for councillors who are in office for the 5th term of local government.
He said every councillor needs to ask himself or herself: “Have I made a difference to the quality of life of the people? How successful have we been in delivering essential services to residents, such as sanitation, roads, refuse removal, health services, electricity? Have we been able to deliver water and to mend the leaking pipes and the broken meters? Have we been able to bring services to the informal settlements and the rural areas?”.
These are bread and butter issues of being a councillor and of being leaders in local government. You have a privilege of serving in a sphere where you can effect meaningful change in the lives of our people. All of us from President to an infant born today, we rely of municipal services in one way or the other.
That is how serious local government is. When you hear debates about restructuring our government system in South Africa, almost all political parties agree that we need to strengthen local government. It is important that you appreciate the strategic position of local government to the developmental agenda of our country which is encapsulated in the NDP, Our Vision 2023 which is 8 years away now. That vision says in part: “South African belongs to all its peoples. We, the people, belong to one another. We live the rainbow. Our homes, neighbourhoods, villages, towns, and cities are safe and filled with laughter. Through our institutions, we order our lives. The faces of our children tell of the future we have crafted.”
Colleagues, without an efficient local government sphere, our Vision 2030 will remain a pipe dream. We must get local government working and working for the benefit of people. Currently this crucial sphere of government is not functioning at an optimal level and is affected by a litany of challenges that are undermining its potential to be a true agent for development.
Some of the challenges in local government are systemic and others are just caused by leadership inefficiencies. As a result of these challenges the public has lost confidence in public representatives and in government. Service delivery protests which totalled to over 900 between August 2020 and January 2021 communicate a message of loss of confidence in public representatives and government. And most of the protests relate to local government issues.
Lower voter turnout in the recent elections also communicate a message of an electorate that is dissatisfied with the direction of local government. Now we have the phenomenon of hug municipalities because the electorate cannot decisively elect any party to office because they do not trust all political parties. We see voters turning away from mainstream political parties choosing to elect independent candidates instead. This trend calls on all of us to restore confidence in local government and we can do that by strengthening the voice of the people in municipal affairs, we can do that by ensuring transparency in municipalities, we can do that by delivery quality service consistently and we can do that by being accountable.
Currently public opinion is that we are failing in all the areas I just mentioned. The audit outcomes are a yard stick that all municipalities must pass to gain public trust and boost investor confidence. As you start this fifth term of local government, pay particular attention to what the AG has said about audit outcomes in local government. She said there is: “widespread lack of financial controls and project monitoring, an ongoing culture of a lack of accountability as well as a tolerance of transgressions,”.
Poor audit outcomes will not fix themselves; they require political will, and we trust that you will rise to the task of accountability for public finances. You must understand that in the institutions you work in, there are people who are part of the fight back campaign against renewal and rebuilding of proper governance system, because they personally benefit from poor governance system. It is your responsibility to safeguard the financial resources of the people of our province in local government.
It is not going to be an easy task because local government has also been infiltrated by gangsters and underworld cartels. These are people who stall projects and most of the time they are linked to political leadership. I want to advise you colleagues not to entertain their advances, because once you do, there is no going back. You will not only be selling the state to cartels, but you will also be selling the revolution. When they are done using you, they will destroy you and your families will suffer greatly. We have seen many capable people in our country ruining their careers and integrities by participating in the state capture project. Now they are out in the cold with clouds of reputational damage hanging over their heads.
Corruption is one of the greatest crimes ever committed against our people. It is no longer perceived, it is real. It takes scarce resources away from development projects and robs our people of a better life. As the new leadership that is coming into the space, you must make it your priority to stem the tide against corruption and write a corruption free chapter during this term. The only way we can do that is by acting against those who commit corruption. We expect you to stop seating on forensic reports. We expect you as leadership to act on the SIU reports that are issued against your institutions and implement consequence management.
In our attempt as provincial cabinet to lead and be practical on the fight against corruption, we took a decision to subject ourselves in life style audit and that is underway as I speak here. We also took a decision to be transparent about procurement and supply chain processes by fully publicising government supply chain and procurement decisions .
As I said before, some of the challenges in local government are systemic, and can only be solved through bold decisions. The issue of fixing funding for local government should be our collective fight. All of us agree that local government is the sphere closest to the people, but the funnel approach budgeting says something else.
We still have a system that allocates 50 percent of the equitable share to national government, 41 percent to provincial government, leaving a mere 9 percent for local government. This must change if we are serious about making local government a capable sphere for development.
The issue of departments and households owing municipalities for services rendered also needs to come to an end. It is crippling municipal reserves and makes it difficult for municipalities to improve the services they provide to communities. Government must lead by example in paying for municipal services and as the province we are trying our best to pay our debts, despite our fiscal challenges.
Colleagues, as a parting shot, we must ensure that in this fifth term of local government there is stability both administratively and politically. Political and administrative instability renders our municipalities dysfunctional, and this has nothing to do with the interest of our people, but self-serving personal interests. We must stop looking for admistrative solutions for political problems , this approach has put careers of our professionals at precarious balance. Abantu abenza ezinto, baphelelwa zizazela, abanazintliziyo. They are willing to kill to achieve their wicked agendas.
We are concerned by the killing of councillors in some parts of our country and as SALGA you must frown upon such incidents. Here in our province, we saw an attempt on the life of Comrade Nanziwe Rulashe last week and this happened after she was inhumanely kicked out of her office in the Amathole District Municipality . We trust the police will uncover the people behind the attempt on her life.
If your members as SALGA are going to be intimidated and you allow that to happen, you will not achieve what you said in your theme for this provincial conference, which is to Enhance the quality of local democracy and to professionalise local government.
Colleagues, the people of our province came out in numbers in the local government elections to vote you into office. Your allegiance must be to the people who voted you into office, not anyone else.
Our people expect nothing else but good quality services from our municipalities. They expect their refuse to be collected on time, they expect to drive in roads that have no potholes, have uninterrupted affordable electricity, streets that are well lit at night for their safety, sporting fields that are well maintained, clean drinking water, they expect municipalities to attract investors that would create jobs and they expect their municipalities to affirm local businesses in the procurement of goods and services to protect and grow local industries.
The Municipal Systems Act commands you to ensure all these basic services are provided to our people without fail. These are services you can provide to our people if you use your positions of responsibility to serve the interests of the masses. We urge the leadership of SALGA to continuously capacitate councillors so that they are fit for purpose. We also implore councillors to take their personal development seriously. You have 5 years in office, our institutions of higher learning have courses that are tailormade for you. Grab all the educational opportunities you will be exposed to, so that by the end of the term you can have some form of qualification in your hand.
Colleagues, starting from today Stats SA is embarking on a critical exercise of a population count. As leaders you know that resources in our country are allocated based on population numbers. But census is also important to assess the socio-economic status of our communities. So that we plan properly backed by scientific evidence for future development. As you know the last population count was in 2011. That was a long time ago, a lot has happened since then on the population numbers and on the socio-economic status. So, we urge you as leaders in local government to be counted and to support Stats SA where you lead to have a successful count that would give us a true picture of our population numbers and socio-economic status.
As I descend the stage, let me remind you of the profound words of Tata Nelson Mandela when he addressed the 5th Steve Biko Lecture, in 2004.
Madiba said: “The values of human solidarity that once drove our quest for a humane society seem to have been replaced, or are being threatened, by a crass materialism and pursuit of social goals of instant gratification. One of the challenges of our time, without being moralistic, is to re-instil in the consciousness of our people that sense of human solidarity, of being in the world for one another and because of and through others.”
I hope these words will inspire you to relook at yourselves as leaders in Local Government.