Political contestation and infighting wreak havoc in towns, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the local government summit at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the local government summit at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg.
Image: GCIS.

Political instability at local government level needs to come to an end.

This was the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he addressed a room full of councillors, mayors, premiers, traditional leaders and NGOs attending the local government summit at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg on Wednesday.

He said: “It is at this level where we’ve had our most challenges, where people in leadership positions have often butted heads among themselves where they start differing and even fighting like there is no tomorrow. Fighting that at times leads into outright violence where people even die.”

He went on to say that “political contestation and infighting that is wreaking havoc in our municipalities must come to an end. We should once and for all end the hijacking of municipal councils and administrations for self-enrichment and personal gain.”

Furthermore, he said: “Local government should employ people able to perform the functions they are responsible for and should carry them out in an accountable, transparent, efficient, effective and responsive manner.”

He said he had heard tales of how some municipal councils had been captured and hijacked to advance the interests of a few people and where everything was outsourced to just a few entities and companies.

Ramaphosa said the summit focused on practical solutions in resolving the challenges at local government.  

He said he was disheartened by reports from the auditor-general and National Treasury and the state of local government which point to inefficiencies, maladministration, lack of financial controls, poor governance and the like.

“The reports also talk about political contestations that leads to the paralysis that we find in local government and how, at times, there is perceived political interference in the running of local government. We don’t need any more diagnosis, we know what the problems are.”

He said if the government can get local government and service delivery right, investments will follow.

“When these domestic investors and multinationals are making decisions on where to bring or expand their investments, one of the first factors they consider is whether there is an enabling environment in that locality.”

In addition, they look at the provision of water, electricity, sewage, refuse removal, safety and infrastructure and if they are not satisfied, they go elsewhere and this, he said, leads to job losses and the economy suffers.

He told municipal leaders that they should consider the role of the district development model, which aims to bring about a unified approach to service delivery challenges in the three spheres of government.

“You have to play your important role collectively. We should not leave it to consultants to devise our economic development plans and expect that they will be implemented on their own.”

He said an ideal municipality was one which including a vibrant economy, places where tourists want to visit, interconnected communities and skills and training hubs.

“It is about restoring governance, about professionalising municipal administrations and stabilising management and political leadership. It means prioritising fiscal sustainability, sound municipal financial governance and eliminating corruption,” he said.

Ramaphosa urged government officials to help to make the DDM alive using the little resources that the government has.

There is a need for the government to bridge the divide between policy and implementation, he said.




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