Getting the basics right – with your help

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

By Communications Minister Faith Muthambi

Performing important and routine everyday tasks that affect the lives of all is part of our going back to basics programme.  It is a call to action for municipal officials to get the basics right and to all South Africans to play their part in ensuring that our municipalities function optimally.

The success of this programme, introduced by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, rests on the active involvement of every member of society. We can no longer be passive recipients of services. South Africa is a developmental state and our Constitution requires of us to fulfil our basic responsibility, namely to work with government in creating a better life for all.

The government has established platforms for all to become involved in the delivery of services and development of their communities. Communities must use them to propose new ways of doing things and monitor government performance. This will strengthen public accountability and drive improved service delivery.  

Working together we have accomplished a lot to develop local government since 1994. We have a decentralised sphere of local government that is enshrined in our Constitution. We have supported this with legislation and policies that enable municipalities to fulfil their responsibilities.

We are, nevertheless, mindful that there is still a lot more to be done towards realising our vision of creating responsive, accountable, effective, and efficient local government structures.  A Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs review of municipalities’ shows that we need to work harder for our municipalities to perform optimally.

The review identified three categories of municipalities: those that are doing well, those that are functional and those that are dysfunctional. The review and other challenges were discussed at the Presidential Local Government Summit, which was attended by mayors, Speakers, Chief Whips, Municipal Managers and Chief Financial Officers from 278 municipalities. It was resolved that local government be strengthened by getting the basics right.

Addressing the Summit, Minister Pravin Gordhan stated: "We want every municipality... to ensure that it undertakes core basic functions as efficiently, as effectively and as religiously as is humanly possible. In other words, focus not on the fancy and the frills, but focus on the basic tasks that local government is... there to perform within the context of this inter-governmental system.”

The programme sets a clear target for municipalities to deliver basic services and improve the lives of all. It calls on every municipality to make sure that traffic lights work, potholes are filled, water is delivered, refuse is collected, electricity is supplied and that is refuse and waste management. They must establish platforms through which communities can interact with officials, who must respond timeously to crises.

More importantly, municipalities must appoint people with the requisite skills, expertise and qualifications.

The programme also comprises measures to deal with fraud and corruption, the elimination of poverty and the development of rural areas. Addressing the Summit, President Zuma said: “Going back to the basics means reviewing tendering systems and dealing with corruption systematically within the supply chain system. Going back to the basics also means working harder to expand poverty alleviation programmes... Going back to the basics enjoins municipalities to boost rural development by supporting small enterprises, co-operatives and smallholder farmers in rural towns and villages.”

Back to basics will build on the recent establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Service Delivery to fast-track service delivery in areas where there are bottlenecks and respond to areas where there are service delivery problems and ensure it shows improvement.

This programme is in line with the President’s vision that local government must be at the forefront of improving people’s lives and creating conditions for inclusive economic growth.

The task of building a responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government is a process. We challenge everyone to heed the call to get involved and make our municipalities fully functional, efficient and effective.


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