Give them reasons

2009-09-10 00:00

THE top brass of ANC leadership from the National Executive Committee (NEC) descended on the province at the weekend to hold several meetings with the ruling party’s councillors. The aim of the visit? To find out, first-hand, the challenges they are facing in municipalities run by them and those they are contesting.

ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe convened a meeting between ANC members and councillors in the eThekwini Metro area, and NEC members Tokyo Sexwale and Siyabonga Cwele did the same in Shakaskraal, north of the province.

In Pietermaritzburg, national party chairperson Baleka Mbete met with councillors and party members from eight municipalities: uMgungundlovu District, Impendle, Mooi Mpofana, Mkhambathini, Richmond, uMshwati, uMngeni and Msunduzi.

Party insiders said the aim was to discuss the issues that are preventing ANC-led municipalities from delivering on the party’s election promises when it comes to service delivery at local government level.

The KZN delegation top brass all said the same verses. What was uttered in Shakaskraal and in eThekwini was similar to what was said in Pietermaritzburg. Here, in the city, Mbete highlighted the need to discuss problems honestly and openly so that, back at headquarters, the party could be fully aware of the challenges faced at local government and be in a position to implement interventions to boost its showing in the 2011 local government elections.

In reference to the recent service delivery protests, Mbete admitted there is some legitimacy to the concerns of the public.

She said that the party’s own inquiries had revealed that some councillors are insensitive to unhappiness around service delivery and that the party needs to deal with regaining the trust of its electorate speedily and efficiently.

The ANC can no longer keep telling people that it is still learning. It is more than 15 years since it took over the reins of running the country, said Mbete.

She makes a good point, which is also long overdue. The recent spate of service delivery protests were a clear sign that people are angry and will no longer accept the government’s excuses for why poor people cannot get houses, water, electricity and roads.

Neither ANC nor IFP-run municipalities in the province have managed to escape the frustration of communities, many of whom have struggled for years to get their municipalities to account for not delivering.

Each community is supposed to have a council representative airing their views during council committee meetings and in budget processes. While it is probable that not all the needs raised can be attended to in a financial year, it is also true that often municipalities don’t spend enough time explaining this to communities through their representatives.

Other communities are afforded valid explanations, but don’t fully understand them. As a result, councillors, municipalities and the government are considered as generally uncaring.

Take Msunduzi Municipality as one example. In the recent past, promises were made to turn the greater Edendale area into an economic hub. That idea has since died a quiet death without the people of Pietermaritzburg receiving an explanation.

Remember also the commitment to establishing a furniture factory, in conjunction with Italian furniture manufacturer the Constantini family, at the old polocrosse fields? That also came to nothing.

A German motorbike manufacturer was supposedly going to open a plant in the greater Edendale area as well ...

The ANC’s review of this is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope they haven’t left it a little too late.

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