Pres Zuma urges local authorities to be responsive

Friday, June 10, 2016

Kwaggafontein - President Jacob Zuma has urged local government authorities to be more responsive to the needs of communities, saying this is the only sphere of government that is very close to the people.

President Zuma was speaking during a high-level Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring Programme visit to Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga, on Friday.

During a community meeting at a local stadium, community members, who were given a chance to speak to the President, said they were concerned about the lack of housing, poor water infrastructure and unemployment in the area.

The Presidency said the visit forms part of the Back to Basics 10-Point local government revitalisation plan, which was launched in 2014 to promote community engagement. On Friday, President Zuma sought to achieve exactly that when he allowed members of the community to speak directly to him about their problems.

Community member Thabo Johannes Masina said: “I would like to know how our government will address the issue of illegal taverns that open the whole night. My second question is, how will government assist us with the issue of making sure that foreign shop owners work together with local business people and that conflicts are eliminated?”

Another community member, Msizi Nene, asked President Zuma to look into the issue of public transport in the area which, he said, was not sufficient to ferry thousands of people who work in Pretoria every day.

“Another problem is that we only have two clinics in our area, which tend to be overcrowded.”

People with disabilities also raised issues of being discriminated against in the workplace and urged President Zuma to look into this.

Cabinet Ministers present at meeting

During the visit, the President was accompanied by several Ministers and their deputies. The Ministers included Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti. The Ministers took note of the issues raised.

“The Siyahlola programme is designed to allow [me] to come and see for [myself] whether things are happening. My visit here follows an earlier visit I paid to Marabastad in Pretoria, where people pleaded with me that I visit Kwaggafontein,” President Zuma said.

The President, speaking mainly in IsiZulu, took some time to listen to several people who raised issues with him.

He told the more than 1 000 people, who packed a white marquee, that local government is a very important sphere of government, as it is close to the people.

“Our visit today is a step to promote the performance of municipalities. We are happy to visit a municipality that had faced enormous problems, which is now improving,” the President said.

Earlier, President Zuma visited KwaMhlanga Hospital where he was given a tour of the facility. The hospital had been marred by problems, including allegations of maladministration and poor patient care.

The President also handed over keys to refurbished houses to several beneficiaries in the local township.

Municipality had problems in the past

Kwaggafontein is under the Thembisile Hani Municipality - which before the 2011 municipal elections – was placed under administration as it was unable to manage its affairs. There were concerns of corruption and mistrust towards the municipality. The municipality has an unemployment rate of 36%, higher than that of the province.

But it’s reported that several interventions by the Mpumalanga Provincial Government had led to improvements in the performance of the municipality. The interventions included an adoption of a turnaround strategy, as well as a budget indaba to help local authorities manage pubic funds more efficiently.

On Friday, President Zuma said the improvement at the municipality mirrored the improvements that were made by many municipalities across the country, as indicated by the Auditor General in a report on municipalities last week.

The President also congratulated the provincial government for eradicating the bucket system by 98% over the last year. He also indicated that the Department of Transport has begun plans to rehabilitate the notorious Moloto road.

“We are happy that this road will be fixed. A decision has been taken and construction will begin in September and the work will be in stages, with the first critical 25 kilometres set to receive priority,” President Zuma said.

In his response to some of the issues raised by the no less than 10 people who spoke, President Zuma said government has taken note of the high unemployment rate in the area and that government had been trying to mitigate the problem through the community works programme. The programme provides work opportunities for more than 1 000 people in the area twice a week.

To address water shortages in Kwaggafontein, President Zuma said,  a new water reservoir and pipeline will be built in nearby KwaMhlanga. –