Local participation vital in municipal planning: Motlanthe

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pretoria - Weaknesses in communication, accountability, skills shortages and lack of community involvement in some municipalities were among the contributory factors to service delivery backlogs, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Tuesday. 

"The misalignment in respect of planning, implementation, and coordination as well as capacity challenges in some sector departments, corresponds with my experiences when visiting municipalities as part of our War on Poverty programme," said Motlanthe in his address to the National Council of Provinces. 

While the municipalities' Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) were meant to be sources of the communities' visions for social and economic development, findings showed a lack of meaningful participation by communities and local stakeholders in the IDP process.

Key reasons for this were insufficient economic, institutional and human capacity coupled with inadequate knowledge of government and budgetary processes, the Deputy President said. 

South Africa's townships continue to be plagued by widespread service delivery protests, with communities often blaming local authorities for non-delivery. 

Motlanthe said it was imperative that all critical projects for local economic development are located within IDPs, given their strategic purpose as government's development programme.

"IDPs are meant to be sources of the communities' visions for social and economic development, setting out how land should be used, what infrastructure and services are needed and how the environment should be protected."

In addition, "high turnover" of key municipal personnel also constrained delivery.

In areas where participation occurs, it often was merely for compliance, with most indicators already being determined by officials. 

"And while it is understood that IDPs have to be aligned, there often is little mention of provincial and national programmes," Motlanthe said, adding that if resources were to be optimally utilised and delivery accelerated, "then we have to get IDPs right."

"Members of Parliament too are important stakeholders and have a role to play in ensuring maximum community participation in the IDP processes. 

"The primary platform for ensuring streamlined, qualitative stakeholder input into the IDP process is the Ward Committee. In many instances however, local municipalities have failed to set up ward committees," the Deputy President said.

Motlanthe added that where they exist, some ward committees remained excluded from decision-making processes. 

"Municipalities therefore need to invest more towards developing capacity for ward committee members, including ward councillors, particularly on their intended roles and responsibilities and provide them with the necessary enabling resources."