South Africa could be heading towards becoming ungovernable, Dr Makhosi Khoza, executive director of local government strategy at the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) said on Tuesday.
The former ANC MP was speaking at an event in Cape Town hosted by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
"Why are we in SA where we are? We have become so corrupt, and there is so much political meddling, that some no longer care about the law.
"That leads to even municipalities violating the law, and leadership not condemning it," she said.
Khoza, a stern critic of former President Jacob Zuma resigned from the ANC in September 2017, saying the party had become "alien and corrupt". She subsequently launched her own political party but announced she was quitting politics in April 2018. She joined OUTA the following month.
Continued corruption has led to strife rather than solutions, she argued on Tuesday.
"For [the corrupt] to continue 'eating' - that means be corrupt - they must pitch people against each other and not see the various communities as partners to solve municipal problems.
"Currently, municipalities are not solving problems, they are just shifting it to consumers by increasing rates."
'You need ratepayers'
Khoza argued ratepayers, local businesses and ratepayer associations should not be isolated from giving their input to municipal ward committees.
"Ward councillors should be directly accountable to the community. Currently, ward committees are no longer an expression of a community. Ratepayers are paying for services for a municipality to be sustainable," she said.
"For that, you need ratepayers. Yet about 90% of ward committees are made up of indigent communities," Khoza claimed.
Municipal systems were currently vulnerable to corruption, she added.
"The system of the ward councillor chairing the ward committee means it can be captured. They get vulnerable people on the committee because they would not challenge the chair of the committee. They isolate businesses and ratepayers from ward committees."
Khoza said due to municipal mismanagement, rate-paying communities were starting to demand to govern themselves. This led to poor communities suffering, as they were no longer subsidised by ratepayers.
"Municipalities must ensure services are delivered in a sustainable manner. That is very important. And they must be held accountable. Local service delivery should not be highly politicised. It is about survival and basic needs, not politics," she said.
She also claimed that many towns in SA had become so dirty that tourists - a former source of income - were no longer interested in going there.
"In Gauteng, for example, because local communities felt unsafe, they set up boom gates. Vulnerable communities, however, cannot afford that. Gated communities now have schools and everything they need - some even have a petrol station on the grounds. Some do not depend on the municipality even for waste removal," said Khoza.
"As we see more and more municipalities collapse, you see those gated communities decide to supply services themselves, and then their rates cannot subsidise poor communities anymore.
"Some municipalities collect money, but they do not pay it over to Eskom, for instance. There is a lot of political meddling."
OUTA has developed a model which it believes would address the challenges currently facing municipalities. It involves, among other things, getting businesses, ratepayers as well as the indigent communities to work together.
"We must address under-collection by municipalities. Even big businesses steal electricity. Even there is corruption. There is no way you can deal with corruption if you do not fix the leaking pot and create an environment for investment," she said.
"We need to depoliticise local government and there must be consequences for those breaking the law. Their shining shoes must be replaced with prison boots and orange prison overalls. We must build social cohesion."
She said OUTA had already engaged with officials at National Treasury about its model for municipalities.
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