Opening Address by Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs During the Free State Local Government Lekgotla
6 November 2018
Premier of Free State, Hon Sisi Ntombela
MEC of Cogta Free State, Hon Mr MD Khoabane
HODs and heads of Cogta entities
Our various stakeholders
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning to you all.
I am pleased to join you at this important gathering. This Lekgotla provides an opportunity to reflect on the issues that affect the local government sector especially the municipalities, most of which have been identified before and have had a number of resolutions taken to address them.
This Lekgotla is therefore meant to revisit our resolve regarding these challenges, and renew our collective will and consensus about resolving these problems considerably and completely, once and for all. We do so conscious of the urgency of the task of correcting these ills in the municipalities so that we can relieve our people of the brunt of poor service delivery in dysfunctional municipalities.
A great possibility lies in all of us collectively to find solutions, if we are united in both will and effort, to root out these challenges. In doing so we will be able to strengthen and also restore the hopes and faith of our people. From the onset we need to point out that there is a lot of good work that is taking place in some of our municipalities.
There are many local government officials and councillors in this province and nationally, who are fully committed and dedicated to their work. They spend countless hours in the service of the people. We acknowledge them and thank them for their loyalty and good service. We will be tapping into this resource as we work to rebuild our municipalities so that they can perform the tasks expected of them.
The pride of every municipality is to provide reliable services. They must supply electricity, water and sanitation. The grass must be cut on the verges of the roads, refuse must be removed, potholes must be covered, municipal clinics must be functional and all other services must be provided continuously. A functional municipality must manage its finances prudently and efficiently. It must collect revenue and also pay its bills. Vacancies must be filled by competent, experienced and knowledgeable managers.
Given the challenges we face in many of our municipalities, we have decided to put more effort on fixing our municipalities, and currently implementing an extensive Municipal Recovery Programme in all provinces, based on the Back to Basics Programme.
I have been undertaking visits to provinces to work together with colleagues to find solutions to fix distressed and dysfunctional municipalities. I undertook an official visit to the Free State in June this year. We identified specific challenges that must be dealt with.
Some of the commitments that we made in the budget vote included that eleven municipalities were to be monitored with a view of ensuring that they improve and get out of Section 139 within twelve months and these include municipalities in this province, such as Masilonyana, Mafube, and Maluti –a- Phofong Local Municipalities.
During the June visit we identified seven dysfunctional and distressed municipalities that need support to effect a turnaround.
These are the following;
Mafube LM, Masilonyana LM, Maluti-A-Phofung LM,
Letsemeng LM, Kopanong LM, Mantsopa LM,
Nketoana LM, Mohokare LM and Tokologo LM.
I am in close contact with the MEC, Cde Khoabane we are working well together in seeking solutions. We have also identified political issues that impact on governance and service delivery that need to be attended to. Such political issues cut across municipalities, nationally.
Squabbles within local leaders of the governing parties in the municipalities tend to spill over into the municipalities. The interference of political leaders in governance also makes it difficult for municipal officials to carry out their tasks. Failure to resolve conflicts within the municipalities disqualifies municipal leadership from resolving tensions in the communities. A fighting municipal leadership corps would not be able to present a united front to the people. They would have nothing to offer in terms of service delivery because they would still be held up by bickering.
Some of these problems also translate to serious challenges such as political killings which have claimed the lives of councillors and municipal officials in some provinces with more than 30 in KwaZulu-Natal. I implore all political leaders in all parties to ensure that squabbles are dealt with constructively and peacefully. These should not escalate and lead to loss of life.
What is totally unacceptable are squabbles relating to resources in the municipalities such as tenders, arising from greed and corruption. We must unite against both evils as we rebuild our municipalities.
The Auditor-General has spoken out strongly about the need for effective, clean and efficient financial management in municipalities. In the COGTA Budget Speech in May this year, we announced the collective COGTA resolve to reverse negative audit outcomes in 27 municipalities with disclaimers, giving ourselves timeframes of one year to do so. We also want to pilot a clause in the contracts of municipal managers for them to be removed in case of disclaimers. I will be meeting municipal managers on the 12th of November and I am keen to hear from them what should be done to fix municipalities. If they have a problem with such a clause in their contracts, what should be done? We are convinced that it is the right approach.
Our people continue to cry out for services. We realised that some municipalities were not refurbishing or building new infrastructure and were unable to spend their Municipal Infrastructure Grant allocations.
One of the key reasons for failure to spend the MIG was the lack of capacity to manage the funds and also to handle big infrastructure build programmes. We decided to solve the problem once and for all. In August this year, we announced the deployment of more than 80 engineers and town planners in municipalities, employed by our Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA). We have asked for reports from the provinces on how the impact of this deployment we trust that our technical experts are making a difference in the functioning of municipalities.
MISA has advertised more posts for chief engineers and professional engineers as we are determined to remove the lack of technical expertise as an impediment in municipalities.
COGTA is also rolling out the implementation of the Municipal Specific Revenue Plan in distressed municipalities nationwide to improve revenue collection.
We continue to implement these measures as engage provinces and municipalities.
We regard the Ministerial visits to implement the Municipal Recovery Programme as very important for the interface with provinces and municipalities. Some of the challenges we identified during our visit to the Free State in June and the solutions proffered include the following:
Nine municipalities were identified to be in distress as indicated earlier. We urged these municipalities to compile recovery plans for approval by their Councils to deal with their various challenges.
Among the issues that the plans had to address included:
Filling critical senior management posts and attending to organograms expeditiously.
Addressing under-expenditure and utilisation of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) for payment of salaries;
Realistic repayment plans to Eskom and Water Boards;
Addressing the culture of non-payment of services.
Attending to forensic investigations in relation to audit outcomes;
We also drew attention to governance failures at ward committee and ward councillor levels, often manifest through community protests, as well as a lack of frequent meetings between the Mayors, Speakers, Chief Whips and Municipal Managers (troika) and Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPACs).
We requested Mangaung Metro to table a clear turn-around plan. We urged more astuteness with conditional grants meant for managing infrastructure and service delivery.
Another pledge was that COGTA will participate in the National Treasury process to develop a Financial Recovery Plan for Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality which will be aimed at improving the budgeting system.
The debt owed to Eskom and water boards is another rkey area of focus. We are pleased with the outcome of the court case in Maluti-a-Phofung which allows for solutions to be found outside of court between government and the litigants.
We appreciate the gesture from the business community in areas such as Maluti-a-Phofung and Emalahleni who have elected to work with us to find lasting solutions which focus on municipal recovery.
Having outlined some of the issues, let us ask ourselves where we are at the moment, what progress have we registered and whether it does vindicate our claim that we are a government that cares and that meet the needs of the people? I will not be able to engage all these issues individually but I would like to draw ourselves to what this Lekgotla should fix its mind and focus on.
It is neither helpful nor desirable to keep making capital injection where basic governance is non-existent. Problems of governance, service delivery and financial management still persist in the affected municipalities. The common denominators at almost all municipalities include political dynamics and issues around the employment of people with the right skills.
I wish to emphasise that we should appoint the right people with the right qualifications, as a start and springboard to injecting the much-needed momentum in other proposed interventions in the municipalities. This process must be deadline-driven. In June we put a deadline of three months to attend to staff vacancies in the province.
It is important to resolve the challenges in this regard within specific stipulated deadlines.
We are the custodians of the interests of our people. They must trust us through our actions and not only through what we say. Let us fix municipalities and when we have done so, we will have solved half the problems of this country.
These are some of the issues that this Lekgotla should apply its collective minds very candidly and carefully.
Our President has reminded us that we are servants of the people, hence at COGTA we have our own Thuma Mina pledge that we made, that we want to be there when we turn our municipalities around.
THE COGTA THUMA MINA PLEDGE
I want to be there when our people turn municipalities around. Send me!
When they triumph over poverty unemployment and inequality, I want to be there.
When our people protest and cry out for service delivery,I want to be there.
I want to be there for the indigent, the unemployed and those in informal settlements.
I want to lend a hand when our people fight against rigging of tenders, fraud and corruption.
I want to be there when our people eliminate crime, violence and the abuse of women and children.
I want to be there in the fight against HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and cancers.
I want to be there to ensure food security and healthy lifestyles, Send me!
I want to be there when our people fight for land and get involved in the agrarian revolution.
I want to be there when our people clean the streets of our towns and cities to reclaim our dignity and pride.
I want to be there when our people fix the potholes, broken lights and cut the grass on the verges of the roads.
I want to be there when we save our people from natural or man-made disasters such as floods, drought, fires or vehicle accidents, Send Me!
I want to be there when our people share in the country's wealth to be included in a growing and vibrant economy.
I want to lend a hand in the struggle to improve the lives of all South Africans.
I want to be there when we build a caring, compassionate, tolerant society.
When our elected, traditional, religious, labour and community leadership are champions of a democratic society, united in diversity across culture, religion, language and tradition.
I want to be there for nation building, social cohesion and the protection of human rights for all.
THUMA Mina, Send Me!
I wish you a successful lekgotla!
I thank you!
Issued by the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, 6 November 2018