Back to Basics – Serving our communities better

The Presidential Local Government Summit took place for the second time since the democratic local government was established in South Africa. The summit has touched on interesting subjects, particularly those that will help government address issues relating to service delivery and improving living conditions of the citizens.

Amongst the issues that caught my attention as a journalist for www.sanews.gov.za were what the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Pravin Gordhan, said: “Despite the fact that a third of municipalities failed to perform their duties well, two-thirds of municipalities have been doing well.”

President Jacob Zuma also indicated that good strides have been made in local government, and urged the underperforming municipalities to up their game, and learn from those that did well.

The Mayor of Steve Tshwete Local Municipality, Mr Mike Masina, said amongst the things that strengthened the municipality’s work was the communication strategy “it has developed to keep the public informed about its plans and challenges.” The strategy included SMS lines, a radio slot and a weekly column by the Mayor in one of the local newspapers. I think that is the way to reduce protests in our country.

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President Jacob Zuma: Presidential Local Government Summit 2014

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What the delegates said…

Mr S’fiso Twala – Umkhanyakude District Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)

Question: One thing to take back to your municipality?

Response: Everybody must know that we must just improve service delivery. You must do things right – in one way or another, there are many ways of doing things right. Also do things right in terms of positions – put highly qualified people in the respective positions. Not just take anybody to fill posts. Positions go with responsibility. Right people must be right for the job in terms of qualifications, registrations, etc.

Mr Jeff Mvelane – District Mayor, Umkhanyakude District Municipality, KZN

Question: Your thoughts about the summit?

Response: First thing I want to talk about… it’s motivating when you come and meet all the mayors throughout the country and see similarities of the problems. You end up saying, anyway, it’s not only me that has got a problem. Coming back, as mayors we need to be given powers to do our work without the interference of the province and national [government], because there are legislations that govern the municipality. We should be allowed to just follow the legislation, not to add anything above that.

Equitable share of the local governments in this country needs to be revisited. We are not given the allocation according to the needs, financial allocation. Some of our priorities we want to meet in five years, we will not be able to because our budget is not enough.

Ms Thobekile Maphumolo – Mayor, Mkhambathini Local Municipality, KZN

Question: Your thoughts about the Summit?

Response: For me it shows that we are working as a collective because when we look at section 55 of the Structures Act [of 1998], we are all doing our our role and responsibility guided by that Act. But on the other side, for today being here and sharing the experiences I saw that it’s not only us who have a number of challenges that were raised here.

I hope we will go back and find ways of how to address these challenges. When we look at our rural setup – Amakhosi, Izinduna – when they put people in the area there is no planning. You don’t know where to put big infrastructure. I think they need to be trained and understand that in order for rural development [to take place] they need to interact with town planners and municipality. When we talk about taxing they allocate land in different ways but there is land allocation stipulated by government; there need to be accountability of the hectares given out. And they need to tell the community that they will have to pay for the rest of other services so that there can be revenue for the municipality.