Local Government Summit to address challenges

Wednesday, April 5, 2017
More Matshediso

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma will tomorrow open the third Presidential Local Government Summit, in Johannesburg, to discuss challenges and interventions facing municipalities.

The two-day summit will be convened under the theme: “Transforming Municipal Spaces for Radical Social and Economic Development”.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Des van Rooyen, on Wednesday, briefed the media in Pretoria ahead of the summit.

He said the first day will start with a plenary session where the President will address delegates from municipalities, provinces and national sector departments.

The Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, will also address the summit.

Minister Van Rooyen said the summit will hold interactive panel discussions on the first day. He said the first panel will discuss intergovernmental and stakeholder roles and responsibilities towards radical social and economic transformation at local level.

The second panel will discuss intergovernmental and stakeholder cooperation and collaboration to ensure resilient municipalities focus on Disaster Risk Reduction strategies, while the third panel will discuss transforming the economy of space: intergovernmental commitments towards radical socio-economic transformation.

The summit will be attended by important leaders from all the three spheres of government and other sectors, including national Ministers, Premiers, MECs, Mayors, Speakers, Chief whips and Municipal Managers.

Back to Basics

Outlining the objectives of the summit, Minister Van Rooyen said continued support of the Back-to-Basics (B2B) programme in municipalities is a building block for what the National Development Plan (NDP) defines as developmental local governance.

“The Summit also intends to agree on ways to further strengthen the system of local government in the second phase of the B2B programme, such as addressing spatial injustice and spatial dislocation which continue to impact on the lives of our people; building resilient communities to avoid and reduce the impact of climate change and disasters; and to forge government-wide agreements on approaches and concrete actions to advance radical social and economic transformation at a local level, over the current five-year term,” said Minister Van Rooyen.

The B2B was launched at the 2nd Presidential Local Government Summit in September 2014. It emphasised the need for municipalities to deliver basic services.

This time around, the Minister said the second phase of B2B is meant to take local government to a higher developmental trajectory in pursuit of national priorities and realisation of the NDP goals.

“The Summit will review progress towards strengthening our system of Local Government based on reflections of the successes and challenges of the Back to Basics approach, and concomitantly function as the formal launch of the B2B programme’s second phase.

“The Back to Basics programme has only completed one full financial year of implementation. As part of implementation of B2B we have intervened and supported a number of municipalities.”

Lessons learnt

According to the Minister, some of the lessons learnt in the first phase of the B2B programme were that political instability and weaknesses in governance are two of the primary causes of poor service delivery at municipal level.

He also said lack of citizen engagement was also found to be a common factor in those municipalities that were performing poorly.

“In the next phase, a focus on the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) and its implementation is essential.

“Planning and a focus on Local Economic Development (LED) to stimulate local economies and improve planning capability at municipal level will also form an important component of the second phase of the B2B programme.”

However, the Minister also spoke to challenges in terms of the B2B pillars, which include the need for more constructive forms of engagement.

“In terms of delivering basic services, the challenge is to increase the provision of electricity across the country, including in informal settlements, which face the continual risk of fires.

“Linked to this is the impact of renewable energy provision on the coffers of municipality. Electricity provision remains a staple revenue item across most municipalities.”

He said the inability of municipalities to collect monies owed to them is also a bone of contention.

“The debt owed to municipalities was R117 billion as at December 2016. An attendant factor is the unviability of a number of municipalities, as identified by the Financial and Fiscal Commission.

“Another key issue we are handling is the continued support provided to municipalities to honour their debts to creditors, such as Eskom and Water boards.” - SAnews.gov.za