How cadres crush our municipalities

2014-05-18 15:01

Cadre deployment and political interference are two of the biggest culprits dragging South African municipalities down, according to a new report released by the SA Institute of Race Relations.

Those two factors have combined, the ­institute said, to undermine public servants’ morale and citizens’ confidence in the state – a nasty cocktail that could lead to violent service delivery protests similar to those that have left many dead in the past decade.

Titled The 80/20 Report: Local government in 80 indicators after 20 years of democracy, it also points to a dearth of capacity and skills in municipalities and multiple vacancies, or positions occupied by incompetent officials, as being problematic.

Where officials simply don’t have the skills to do their jobs or aren’t given the resources to perform, municipalities suffer – as is the case when officials can’t produce credible financial statements and performance reports.

The institute compiled the report using data from the ­Auditor-General’s 2011/12 financial year report, Census 2011 and Gaffney’s Local Government in South Africa Yearbook 2011-2013.

“The National Development Plan identifies the need to professionalise civil service and to attract highly skilled people that will be committed to a career in local government,” it notes in the report.

But the institute’s CEO, Frans Cronje, warns that not all ­municipal problems can be blamed on the quality of management and a lack of accountability by officials.

“The institute has always believed that South Africa’s development goal should be to beat poverty and dependency levels by placing people in a position to improve their own lives,” said Cronje.

“It is ultimately futile for local authorities to lay on millions of free and subsidised electricity and water connections if the macroeconomic environment is not conducive to drawing the investment and growth to allow poor people to find a job.”

So even with improved service delivery, a lack of jobs and opportunities can frustrate people – and lead to protests.

According to the report, 45 people have died during service delivery protests over the past decade, and 1?882 violent protests were recorded between April 2012 and March last year.

A lack of water, housing, sanitation or electricity, the disruption of service delivery and broken promises all caused

protests, the report found. But it’s not all bad news.

The institute points to the following as success stories for service delivery:

»Between 1996 and 2011, the number of households with electricity increased by 7.1?million;

»?Households with piped water increased by 5.9?million;

»Households with access to flush or chemical toilets ­increased by 4.4?million; and

»Households with refuse removal increased by 4.3?million.

But, it warns: “Despite increased access to basic services, high unemployment and poverty rates detract from the ­improving picture.”

Municipalities: the great and the grim

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