Major revamp for municipalities

2009-10-20 22:03

Cape Town - A major revamp is on the cards for struggling municipalities, which could include a review of their functions and funding.

This emerged on Tuesday at a Cape Town meeting attended by President Jacob Zuma, most of the country's 283 mayors and municipal managers, provincial premiers and 15 Cabinet ministers.

The four-and-a half-hour meeting followed a recent wave of service delivery protests.

Though discussions were closed to the media, minister in the presidency, Collins Chabane told journalists afterwards it had been agreed there was a need for a "national effort" to improve the performance of municipalities.

Meeting with stakeholders

Asked what concrete actions the administration planned to take in the wake of the meeting, he said the department of co-operative governance would meet on Wednesday with local authorities "and other stakeholders".

"So most of the issues which have been raised here will be taken forward into that forum for discussion and resolution, where time frames are going to be set up."

Issues which related to national and provincial cabinets might need to be looked at by those structures.

"From the presidency side we will co-ordinate and ensure that there are timelines and deadlines which are set."

Chabane said one of the issues participants raised was the need to improve relations and co-operation between the three spheres of government.

Municipalities unfairly blamed

Municipalities were often held to account for provision of services, such as housing, but these were in fact the responsibility of other branches of government.

Another major concern had been the availability of resources: problems had been identified in the sharing of revenue for local government, which did not take into account challenges faced by rural municipalities.

Chabane said there had been a call for the restructuring of municipalities' finances to ensure they had a sustainable rates base.

In his opening address to the meeting, Zuma said it was possible some municipalities had been given functions they would never be able to fulfil, and there was a need for "fundamental changes" in the way municipalities were governed.

"It is clear that we need to do more, and that we need to do things differently."

Zuma said the meeting was "not a local government inquisition but a discussion amongst colleagues and partners to find solutions".