Complaints must be dealt with, urges Gordhan
LOCAL government was about making sure, every single day, that a difference was made in people’s lives – whether by repairing potholes, cleaning the streets or making sure that complaints brought to municipalities were dealt with with the necessary urgency.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Pravin Gordhan, speaking at the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction national event hosted by Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) at Thobi Kula Indoor Sports Complex on Tuesday, urged municipalities to put people first.
He said the Back to Basics campaign, launched by President Jacob Zuma in last year, was about exactly that. “It is about the conditions in which people live, the places where our children play and making sure we do things the way the law requires us to do them,” he said.
Gordhan said the maintenance of infrastructure was important for disaster management, adding if infrastructure was not maintained, it could end up needing a lot of money to repair.
Sound financial manage- ment, which many municipalities were grappling with around the country, was an integral part to the success of local government.
“There is the wrong procurement of goods, which is not government policy, which means we should ask ourselves if we are reaching a point where people look out for their pockets rather than for communities. If we are reaching that point, then we need to know we are going down the wrong path.”
Government had to do its best to eradicate poverty and to give the expected quality of education to the children and youth.
“We have a duty to prepare our young people for a higher quality of life in the future. Government work is about making sure that our communities live in dignity and that the youth have better lives.”
Focusing on disaster management, he said a dry summer and fires were expected.
“How do we work with local government and other spheres of government to cope with what happens? Most importantly, how do we plan for disasters so that communities have the least amount of discomfort? How do we ensure we respond quickly?”
Gordhan said he heard there were backlogs in servicing people previously affected by disasters. Government had less money to spend than in the past and each year it would be less as the gross domestic product was low. “If we do not spend money we will not have more the following year. We must ask who says let me rather keep the money than fix the road, build a house or fix someone’s roof? We need to make it clear that this is not acceptable.”
Cogta MEC Fikile Xasa confirmed there was a huge backlog of victims of disasters waiting for aid. “Today must be the start of educating our people on how to answer the problems we have. Municipalities are close to the people but they can not respond alone to the problems without provincial and national government. We must have answers to the problems.”
Provincial chairman of the House of Traditional Leaders chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima said there were people who did not heed calls not to build houses in lightning prone areas. Matanzima said there were simple things people needed to know such as not standing in the doorway, not riding on horseback and covering mirrors when there was lightning – which people these days took as superstitions. “Government assistance takes too long to get to the people. There first has to be a visit, then the assessment, then the writing of the report and that report has to still be sent to where the help will come from. It would be better to have help closer to where it is needed.”
CHDM executive mayor Mxolisi Koyo said the district appreciated being chosen as host out of 44 districts in the country.
“At the back of our minds we know politicians make decisions but the foundation of those decisions is the officials. Those present must spread the gospel preached here.”
‘Do things the way the law requires’
STRATEGISING: Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) hosted the national session of the United Nations International Day for Disaster Reduction at the Thobi Kula Indoor Sports Complex on Tuesday with, from left, CHDM executive mayor Mxolisi Koyo, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Pravin Gordhan and Cogta MEC Fikile Xasa