/ 22 October 2009

Shiceka: Lekwa decision ‘painful’

The decision to remove the Lekwa municipality mayor and councillors was a ”very painful” one, but should serve as an example, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka said on Thursday.

”It is clear to us that what has happened has to happen and will continue to happen,” Shiceka told a media briefing following a local government indaba in Boksburg, Gauteng.

”We must make sure that the system is cleaned of everything that is not helping it.”

On Wednesday the mayor, the mayoral committee, the speaker and the chief whip were removed after community members in Sakhile township, which falls under the Lekwa municipality in Mpumalanga, embarked on a week-long protest which included the destruction of property.

Shiceka said he was informed of the decision taken by the African National Congress’s national working committee on Thursday morning.

He revealed that the individuals who were removed were under investigation by a former provincial minister.

The outcome of that investigation was given to the council, but no action was taken.

He said ”due process” had been followed before the individuals were removed and that had taken place in consultation with the party who deployed them, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

Shiceka said his department would be pushing for the elimination of violent protests by strengthening ward councils and turning them into the face of local government.

”The new ward councillors would be given a lot of power to do things in the wards … they are going to be the face of local government,” he said.

In the past government had not been responsive in terms of attending to the concerns and frustrations of the community but this was going to change.

”We are going to see magic in South Africa … where people take charge of their development,” he said.

President Jacob Zuma has tasked the Governance and Traditional Affairs Department with reviewing all legislative arrangements that impact on local government.

Shiceka said in the next two weeks work would begin and necessary changes to legislation and the Constitution would be made.

”In South Africa we are arguing that changes are needed … to ensure that we sharpen our instruments to improve service delivery,” the minister said.

Deputy Minister Yunis Carrim said the department would start with policy changes and the possible legislative and constitutional amendments would flow from these policy changes.

He expressed confidence that these changes would receive support from other political parties and they would be effected only after engagement with civil society and other interested groups.

A turnaround strategy to improve the functioning of local government would go before Parliament by December.

A declaration on this strategy’s framework was thrashed out at the two-day indaba. — Sapa