There is a dangerous notion doing the rounds that to extend service delivery to our people in towns, cities and municipalities, we have to outsource the provision of services – even at such basic levels as cleaners, security guards and landscapers.
The argument is that it is cheaper to do so. But it’s a fallacious argument.
For the powers that be to ensure outsourcing, they turn to the tender process. Needless to say, the process is fraught with corruption.
Through the tender process, municipalities have been turned into conduits for stealing money, the culprits being politicians and their close associates.
Sometimes the stealing is so brazen in municipalities that contracts for menial work are given to direct relatives of these politicians, subjecting the most exploited workers in municipalities to further exploitation by unscrupulous tenderpreneurs.
The logic of outsourcing is deeply rooted in the neoliberal belief that the role of the state in the economy specifically, and in society generally, ought to be reduced dramatically, and that the private sector should take the lead in growing the economy and producing the necessities for societal growth.
This sort of thinking is ahistorical at best and dishonest at worst. It ignores South Africa’s evolution, and the role played by the state and the private sector in that evolution.
It ignores the reality that wherever there is a private enterprise in this country, there is an intensification of the oppression and exploitation of black workers as cheap and easily disposable labour, characterised by a deep disdain for them under the guise of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Municipalities have turned a blind eye to the plight of thousands of security guards, cleaners and gardeners who work under poor conditions and are exploited by politically connected private companies.
As part of the EFF’s commitment to building capable municipalities, we will end outsourcing and permanently employ all municipalities’ security guards, cleaners and gardeners.
Doomsayers claimed that insourcing general municipal workers would be costly and less efficient.
Yet the cost of the indignity of thousands of cleaners, guards and gardeners who dedicate their lives to the service of municipalities under a precarious and permanent state of contract work, with no benefits, is not considered.
And besides, paying workers directly, instead of through greedy third parties who are of no value to municipalities, makes compelling business sense.
We have demonstrated that the cost-effectiveness argument is foolish and not based on any solid intellectual foundation.
In 2018 in the City of Johannesburg, the EFF put forward a motion to insource 4 000 security guards. The council adopted this motion and these workers were insourced.
This decision changed the lives of those 4 000 workers and their families, because they now have secure jobs and earn decent wages, while the city has saved money on security tenders. This is the version of a people-centred municipality the EFF envisions.
The City of Johannesburg, for instance, previously paid on average R14 000 per security guard per month when these services were outsourced, yet workers earned less than R4 000 per month with no pension, medical aid benefits or job security. The R10 000 meant to be part of their salary package went into the pockets of the politically aligned tenderpreneurs who acted as contractors.
Equally, it makes no sense for municipalities to have a directorate focused on finances and administration, with qualified accountants and auditors, but to have the same municipalities outsourcing functions as mundane as preparing their own financial statements.
Municipalities governed by the EFF after the local government elections in November will develop sufficient internal capacity to perform these tasks on their own. This will eliminate the potential for stealing public funds by greedy politicians.
Municipal parks will be maintained by municipal employees; refuse and waste collection will be done by workers employed directly by the municipality; and the repair of water leaks, the maintenance of roads, the guarding of municipal property and all other essential services will be performed by the municipality.
This will, in turn, reaffirm the role of municipalities as primarily to deliver services rather than to make opportunities for looting available to families and associates of politicians.
The EFF recommits to building capable and people-centred municipalities, which will end the dependence on corrupt tenders even for the most basic tasks.
No longer will the security guards of Nelson Mandela Bay, the City of Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and many others march endlessly to demand the promise of secure jobs and dignity.
Maotwe is an MP and the treasurer-general of the EFF