Back to basics for local government

By admin
18 September 2014

Local government needs to go back to basics, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

"Local government exists to serve the people. That is the bottom line," he told the presidential local government summit in Midrand, Johannesburg.

'Local government exists to serve the people. That is the bottom line'

"Municipalities must take more decisive action to involve communities and community organisations in the matters of local government."

In April the co-operative governance ministry held a roundtable discussion on service delivery and identified a number of reasons for protests in many municipalities.

Zuma said many communities became impatient when they saw services being delivered to their neighbours, yet they were still waiting.

Other reasons were demands for municipal infrastructure, anger against corruption, nepotism and non-response from government. Communities were also manipulated by aspirant politicians, among others.

He said in some cases people protested against municipalities even if the issues at hand did not fall under their mandate.

"Because this level of government is the closest to the community it is the first port of call for any protest action," said Zuma.

"People demanding a school may march to the local municipality while no local authority has the competence to build schools."

Local government needed to be in a position to respond to these grievances and this required effective inter-governmental relations and fast intervention.

Zuma recalled a meeting he had with ambassadors and high commissioners a few weeks ago where he talked about this matter.

"I could imagine sitting where they are. With the quick kind of communications we have today any protest which is captured... is immediately beamed throughout the globe.

"I can imagine why people come and ask 'what is happening in your country?'."

Zuma said it was important to contextualise these protests and he had told ambassadors and high commissioners not to be shy to talk about the policies and plans the country had in place.

"[The country] has policies and plans and it is implementing these... Because these people see change is happening, they become impatient."

He said other countries, unlike South Africa, had done nothing after obtaining freedom.

"[People from] Countries neighbouring us... come though our borders to benefit from our social services," Zuma said.

This was because the country was actively working to address the plight of its people. Other countries probably did not have plans, he said.

"We must not fail to explain."

The aim of Thursday's summit was to develop a plan to strengthen local government by getting the basics right.

"We must leave this place with an action plan that identifies what each sphere will do to improve local government with clear actions and time frames.

"Every single individual in our three-sphere dispensation must know his or her responsibilities to make local government function better."

Zuma said going back to basics included a recommitment to providing services in a professional manner, reviewing tender systems, improving communication with communities, working to alleviate poverty, and boosting rural development.

"Back to basics means in essence that... local government will indeed become everybody's business," he said.

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