Govt plans 4 250 meetings with communities

2010-03-25 12:54

The government today announced plans to hold 4 250 community

meetings every year to listen to service delivery concerns and try to close the

gap between itself and a disaffected public.

“If you continue to see these protests, it is an indication that

there is an element of discontent,” government spokesman Themba Maseko told a

briefing following the Cabinet’s meeting yesterday.

“Our citizens may just be feeling that government is not listening

to them. So this is an attempt to actually bring government closer to the people

... to tell communities what government is going to do.”

Maseko denied that the so-called Public Participation Programme

would amount to campaigning ahead of next year’s local government elections, but

acknowledged that the government was mindful that, as a rule, delivery protests

intensified ahead of municipal polls.

“There are trends that are discernible in all these protests. We

are aware, for instance, that prior to the year leading to local government

elections, for example, we have tended to see a lot of protests taking place in

various parts of the country in the past.”

He said the meetings where ministers, deputy ministers, mayors,

councillors and MEC would meet the public “will not be a platform for

electioneering”.

“It will coincide with local government elections, but that is not

the primary objective.”

Maseko said the government had realised that local government was

proving to be the most important sphere of government in that it “interacts with

communities on a day-to-day basis”.

He said there was also a realisation on the part of the government

that it needed to channel more funds towards municipalities and an undertaking

to get rid of officials who routinely failed to perform.

He warned that it was impossible to unlock the billions of rands in

additional funding that Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka said

would be needed to clear backlogs.

“More money needs to be found, but we cannot access money that does

not exist.”

Maseko said the Cabinet had not discussed efforts by the

intelligence community to discover whether the protests were being

orchestrated.

“Our primary aim is to begin to identify the concerns that exists

... Even if there was a sinister force behind (the protests), the reality of the

matter is that there are genuine concerns and that actually is where the focus

of government is going to be.”

Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane

would oversee the outreach programme to make sure follow-up meetings were held

to see whether promises were being implemented.


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