Party politics 1st, delivery 2nd

2009-10-22 22:19

Johannesburg - Poor co-ordination between the three spheres of government and political interference in local government were two key factors hampering delivery at municipal level, a local government indaba heard on Thursday.

Executive director of the Democracy Development Programme, Rama Naidu, said the needs of communities were often "relegated to the backburner" due to inter and intra party political struggles at municipal level.

"Political interference is a critical problem... we have to look at to what extent we are willing to have our own agendas scrutinised in order to improve the lives of our people," he said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the indaba in Boksburg.

A state of local government report released at the indaba identified a "contested political/administrative interface" at local government level which caused instability.

Other problems

The report also identified deployment issues, a lack of distinction between councils and administrations and poor political management as some of the root causes of this problem.

Another cause was "no clear framework or lack of understanding of party-municipal relations".

Fezile Dabi District Municipality human resources director, Gilford Mxoli, said some political parties attempted to influence recruitment processes, despite this being an administrative function.

This posed a problem especially in light of the high number of vacancies in many municipalities. Mxoli said many problems municipalities in his district faced were directly linked to high levels of poverty and unemployment.

The backlogs, in electricity, water and the delivery of other services, arose due to a lack of capacity and the finances to build that capacity.

The non-alignment of the local municipalities to the district also posed a problem. This went further with poor co-ordination between local government, provincial and national government, he said.

Political will needed

Dudu Mazibuko, mayor of the Emnambithi Municipality, said the political will to improve services had to be strengthened. She added that councillors needed better training to respond to challenges such as unemployment - which many communities looked to their municipalities to assist with.

People failed to pay for services as they are unemployed which led to financial constraints on municipalities.

Councillor at the Dihlabeng Municipality, Thoko Tshabalala, said the indaba was an eye-opener in many ways and assisted her to think of better ways to do things.

"It showed how important communication with the community is... and [the importance of] ward committees working together," she said.

"They have to work hand in glove with councillors."

All about the money

A Matatiele councillor, who preferred to remain anonymous, said local government problems could be solved with money.

"People always talk about capacity but they don't always say capacity is money. If you have money, you can do anything," he said.

Spetho Eloff from the Pixley Kaseme Municipality said capacity was a major challenge because money was allocated to municipalities in relation to how many people lived in the area instead of the vastness of the area.

"This is a problem... they don't take into account the size of the area... this formula must change," he said.

Green paper

The co-operative governance department would be submitting a green paper on a more "co-operative" format of governing, Shiceka said during the indaba.

This would be aimed at boosting co-ordination and co-operation between the three spheres of government.

Plans were afoot to revitalise the ailing local government arm of government - which has seen dissatisfied residents taking to the streets to voice their frustration and anger.

The indaba wrapped up on Thursday with a declaration to guide government's turn-around strategy for this sector.