During his address, President Zuma shared some of the progress made since the implementation of the Back to Basics programme, which is aimed at revitalising local government. The President indicated that this programme is indeed becoming an integral part of local governance and renewal.
Some key lessons have been learnt during the initial phases of the programme, which are helpful in the implementation of its renewal:
“We have confirmed that political instability and weaknesses in governance are two of the primary causes of poor service delivery at municipal level,” he said. “We have learnt that direct hands-on support yields improved performance. And we have also learnt some positive lessons from the various Section 154 support packages and the Section 139 interventions conducted.”
“We have also learnt more about the importance of technical capacity in planning, project management, design and procurement of infrastructure. We understand that urgent attention is needed for the removal of bottlenecks in the provision of housing, water and sanitation, and that corruption and fraud also remain a matter of concern in some municipalities.”
Key successes were highlighted within municipalities since the programme first started, in particular, the President highlighted work done in Inkwanca, Makana, Elundini, Westonaria and Umvoti municipalities. The Back to Basics programme is clearly making an impact in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
15 years of success
During the debate, SALGA Chairperson Councillor Thabo Manyoni said that in celebrating 15 years of democratic, people-centred and developmental local government, the progress of expanding development should also be considered.
Manyoni also discussed the journey that SALGA took in consolidating more than 1 000 local authorities into 284 municipalities back in 2000, which have since been reduced to 278 municipalities, with further transition in store for 2016.
“This involved establishing government structures and administration in areas that had little or no local government previously,” he said. “This now has the effect that every citizen has elected representatives and is able to hold local leaders accountable. In other words, the people now genuinely govern.”
“It needs to be noted that local government has expanded access to social infrastructure and services such as free basic water, electricity, solid-waste collection, sanitation and sewer connectivity to millions of our people. More critically, at the heart of these services lies the restoration of human dignity and empowering of our people.”
Manyoni added that much has been done in the provision of roads to connect people and to transport goods and services.
At the same time, he told NCOP delegates that there remains a need to address the stubborn challenges that continue to undermine our substantial progress, such as governance and oversight challenges.
SALGA took the opportunity to constructively assess whether the NCOP is indeed performing the role that is expected of it, and how its functionality can be improved.
SALGA views the NCOP as a critical bridge between the three spheres of government and, in this context, has a very important intergovernmental-relations role to play in ensuring the achievement of cooperative governance and consensus on policy among the three spheres. The NCOP is strategically placed to ensure that there is coherent planning and ultimately better service delivery at all levels of government.
Through the NCOP, the national government is sensitized to provincial and local interests, and this should better inform their policy decisions. SALGA also pointed out that the NCOP plays a major role in ensuring that the concerns of the people find expression in government policies to enrich the policy and legislative processes.
At the same time, SALGA acknowledged the challenges still to be faced, especially with regards to legislation processing. With this in mind, the organisation welcomed the commitment made by the NCOP, during the 2015 Local Government Week, to tackle legislation that impedes developmental local government.
SALGA and the NCOP
During the debate, the commissioner of the SALGA Women’s Commission, Councillor Sindiswa Gomba, pointed out that rural women around the world play a major role in ensuring food security and the development of rural areas. Rural women’s work involves agricultural production and household maintenance.
SALGA feels that agricultural support and other developmental programmes should assist in improving women’s farming methods, reducing their workload, and giving them access to water and fuel supplies, credit, skills training, land and markets.
It was argued that improving the lives of rural girls and women could contribute to the eradication of rural poverty. As such, a call for action at different levels was made to ensure the upliftment of rural women.
SALGA participated in both the NCOP workshop on interventions and the Provincial Week, and the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the Criminal Matters Amendment Bill.
The main purpose of the NCOP workshop, among others, was to critically review the role expected of the NCOP in respect to interventions.
SALGA remains focused on its interactions and engagements with the national legislative process. It is, after all, the organisation’s role to ensure both the institutional integrity of local government and the efficacy of legislative interventions aimed at improving service delivery