ANC heeds fiery wake-up call
Unrest fuelled by failure of local councils
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.