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Decisive leadership needed in local government: President Ramaphosa

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President @Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the keynote address at the 2nd Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium of South Africa, held under the theme “Quality infrastructure for Development, Recovery and Inclusive Growth”. #SIDSSA2021

President Cyril Ramaphosa says councillors and local governments must address service delivery with urgency and to turn local government around.

The President was addressing the opening session of the sixth national conference of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) on Wednesday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the SALGA National Conference
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the SALGA National Conference

The conference is one of the biggest gatherings of all three spheres of government, civil society, business and other stakeholders in the country – bringing together officials from some 257 municipalities across the country.

“Local government is where you can make the biggest difference in the lives of our people. Local government is the most important enabler of economic growth and development.

“I have no doubt that each one of us understands the urgency of this moment. Let us turn adversity into opportunity. Let us turn local government around,” President Ramaphosa said.

The president said although “commendable progress” has been made through the provision of water, sanitation and other basic services to communities, sustaining that improvement requires a concerted effort from each municipality and its leadership.

“The task before us now is to consolidate these gains, to deepen them and ensure that we realise the aspirations of the South African people.

“Municipalities are the first point of contact between government and the people. When there are local government failures, the effects are felt immediately and they are far-reaching,” he said.

Municipal challenges 

The President painted a picture of the challenges municipalities are facing while attempting to provide services to the communities they serve.

According to the President:

  • A government report shows that only 5% of the country’s municipalities are financially stable.
  • Other municipalities are in financial distress, with insufficient revenue to meet their expenses.
  • Some 64 municipalities are considered to be dysfunctional.
  • At least 31 municipalities are currently under administration.

“This dysfunction is rooted in poor governance, weak institutional capacity, poor financial management, corruption and political instability. Many residents have lost faith in the ability of local government to meet their needs. So too have many investors.

“The challenges in municipalities do not only affect the lives of communities. They damage both local economies and the South African economy. This need not be the case. We have the means to correct this problem,” President Ramaphosa said.

He called on government leaders to up their game in order to correct failures and guide municipalities towards sustainability, efficiency and clean governance.

“By providing reliable water supply, sanitation, energy and refuse services, and through road and infrastructure maintenance, local government enables our economy to grow and create employment.

“As leaders across government, we have to work with all stakeholders in municipalities to deliver a better life to our communities. This calls for decisive leadership and accountability.”

The President said corruption has no place in municipalities and called for accountability and transparency in municipal finances, while “remembering that it’s not our money, we are managing the money on behalf of others”.

“Our people abhor corruption. They hate it because they know they do not benefit from corruption and only a few people benefit. It is important that we remove the notion of corruption by acting in the most transparent manner, right to the last cent.

“We live in a different era. Our people no longer are accepting of poor performance. They’ve become wiser and more perceptive. So they want everything laid out correctly and truthfully, so our code then begins to speak to the level of performance that is required.”

District Development Model

President Ramaphosa reiterated government’s commitment to implementing the District Development Model (DDM), which is aimed at improving coordination between the three spheres of government and its social partners.

This, the President said, is helping to “grow local economies, create jobs and deliver services better and faster”.

“Through this model, we aim to energise our entire system of cooperative governance, and bring coherence to planning and implementation.

“Once it is fully operational, we will know at all times what is needed, where it is needed, how it will be done, by whom and exactly how much it will cost.”

The President explained that as part of the DDM, the Cooperative Governance Department is drawing profiles for each district and metro, which highlight the “challenges and opportunities” in those communities.

These profiles will provide the basis for the ‘One Plan’ of the metro or district, which is an intergovernmental plan.

“Through these One Plans, we are forging innovative partnerships with communities, businesses and other stakeholders to improve and accelerate implementation of key development projects.

“We are looking to the District Development Model to help put South Africa on a new path of socio-economic and spatial transformation.

“I do believe… that there is a great future for our local government, post the 2021 Local Government Elections. Whatever result they yielded, our people spoke. But having spoken they also – particularly those that did not go to vote – were saying: ‘We are not satisfied with the performance that we have been receiving. We want you to up your game’.

“SALGA is the engine that can enable us to up our game. Through SALGA, the empowering process [and] the supportive process that it plays to our local government, I do firmly believe that if nothing else, the 2021 elections gave all of us a wake-up call… that says: ‘Wake up and smell the coffee but provide good services to us as the people’,” President Ramaphosa said. – SAnews

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