Sunday Tribune

ANC heeds fiery wake-up call

Unrest fuelled by failure of local councils

- Wiseman Khuzwayo

VIOLENT protests over poor service delivery in various municipali­ties have frightened the ANC out of its cocoon at Luthuli House.

Sakhile township, in Standerton, has been the scene of barricades and the burning of council offices. On Wednesday the ruling party sent its firefighte­rs there to douse the flames by firing the municipal mayor, the speaker, the chief whip and members of the mayoral committee. The Lekwa municipali­ty was placed under administra­tion.

The ANC said its decision should serve as a reminder to its deployed cadres of the importance of carrying out the party’s mandate – in line with the 2009 election mandate.

On the same day the Lekwa office bearers were fired, Tshwane executive mayor Gwen Ramakgopa was near tears when Mamelodi residents booed her off the stage at a public meeting in front of Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and her MECs.

On Thursday, angry protesters in Riverlea, south of Johannesbu­rg, blocked the roads near the city’s 2010 stadium with burning tyres and rocks, provoking running battles with police firing rubber bullets.

It now seems certain the ANC will in future be kept busy dousing political fires.

Speaking at the local government indaba on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma said municipali­ties were the first doors people knocked on when they needed government assistance. When they were frustrated with government slowness they engaged municipali­ties before other spheres.

“Citizens also blame municipali­ties for functions they have no control over. For example, municipali­ties are blamed for dysfunctio­nal schools, poor service at hospitals and the slow pace of home building. These are, of course, responsibi­lities of other spheres of government. But for our people, local government is the first door of government they know, and sometimes the only door they can reach,” he said.

A report on the national state of local government assessment­s by the Department of Cooperativ­e Governance and Traditiona­l Affairs, that was released on Tuesday, finds 57 municipali­ties are in financial distress, while 58 others are classified as second-most vulnerable.

It says a municipali­ty’s effective functionin­g begins with its political leadership.

Assessment­s reveal that party political factionali­sm and polarisati­on of interests over the past few years, and the subsequent creation of new political alliances and elites, have contribute­d to the progressiv­e deteriorat­ion of municipal functional­ity, the report says.

“Evidence has been collected to dramatical­ly illustrate how the political/administra­tive interface has resulted in factionali­sm on a scale that, in some areas, is akin to a battle over access to state resources rather than any ideologica­l or policy difference­s. The lack of values, principles or ethics in these cases indicates there are officials and public representa­tives for whom public service is not a concern, but accruing wealth at the expense of poor communitie­s is their priority.”

It says evidence suggests, in aggregate, the levels of municipal investment no longer meet the demands of a growing economy.

“Challenges with regard to financial management identified in municipali­ties during the assessment of the state of local government are not new and have been identified in reports from the national Treasury and the auditor-general.”

The report says poor financial management and lack of controls and accountabi­lity systems negatively affect service delivery to communitie­s. This ranges from no provision of water and other services to inadequate funds for technical equipment to service basic infrastruc­ture.

It also says more than a third of the 283 municipali­ties obtained disclaimer­s or adverse opinions in 2007/08.

The auditor-general’s report identifies lack of controls, mismanagem­ent and lack of governance principles as key reasons for the state of despair in municipali­ties.

The department launched the Operation Clean Audit 2014 campaign in August. It aims to address audit queries in a sustainabl­e way to improve service delivery and ensure, by 2011, all municipali­ties and provincial department­s have dealt with the causes of disclaimer­s and adverse opinions.

The report says the design of South Africa’s intergover­nmental fiscal system is informed by the country’s inequity and inequality: concentrat­ions of developmen­t and economic wealth in certain parts of the country contrastin­g with poverty in other parts.

The system is based on the understand­ing that the redistribu­tion challenge is largely a national issue and must be addressed primarily through the national fiscus by the system of transfers.

It says substantia­l increases have been made to the transfers (both operationa­l and infrastruc­ture) to local government over the past few years in acknowledg­ement of its increased service delivery responsibi­lities. Yet many municipali­ties are not in a position to meet their developmen­tal mandate due to an inadequate economic base or high levels of poverty and unemployme­nt.

Internal municipal systems result in cumbersome administra­tive and budgeting systems. Inefficien­t service delivery, poor management and disproport­ionate wage bills are adding to the problems of municipali­ties. National policies, such as the extension of free basic services to poor households, are also putting added pressure on local government.

 ?? PICTURE: MATTHEWS BALOYI ?? Sakhile community members in Standerton take to the streets as their service-delivery protests rage on.
PICTURE: MATTHEWS BALOYI Sakhile community members in Standerton take to the streets as their service-delivery protests rage on.

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