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Tarryn Harbour, Lisa Steyn12 Mar 2010 11:50
Most protests are the reaction of people who have been raising issues for a long time without getting a response from relevant government structures, Sicelo Shiceka, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, said at parliamentary media briefings last week.
But he expressed faith in the local government “turnaround strategy” he unveiled in November last year, saying it was showing results.
“Many more people are raising issues and protesting because they can see that we are dealing with matters that they raise.
“It’s like a baby who cries when they see their parent,” he said.
Department taken by surprise?
When Shiceka announced the strategy last year he said it “must be implemented at municipal level from January to March 2010”.
But this week’s protests in Gauteng appear to have taken the department by surprise.
Asked by the Mail & Guardian on Thursday about the community protests in eight or more municipalities, the departmental spokesperson, Vuyelwa Qinga Vika, responded: ‘Eight or nine ...
Referring to the strategy, she said: “The approach from January to March was to select two municipalities [that] are most vulnerable in each province.
“The two were selected to see if the strategy would work with the given environment as there were different realities when implementing the strategy on the ground.
“All municipalities are unique and the problems they are facing are unique,” Qinga Vika said.
In October last year, after President Jacob Zuma’s indaba with mayors and premiers about service delivery protests, Collins Chabane, the minister in the presidency, said “several processes” regarding local government reform would begin immediately.
On Thursday this week Chabane’s spokesperson, Harold Maloka, referred the M&G to the cooperative governance department, saying that all coordination of the processes to reform service delivery had been handed over to it.
In a statement issued in Gauteng on Thursday, the ANC said: “It seems there is a systematic pattern and that the protests are coordinated with a clear objective: to destabilise government.”
The party appealed “to communities to remain calm [and] exercise patience and tolerance”.
“The ANC will send a team of leaders to speak to the people about their concerns and determine appropriate measures to resolve the problems,” the statement said.
“The protests do not mean that people are disillusioned with the ANC government but are raising issues for the government to speed up change and succeed.”
Qinga Vika told the M&G the minister’s turnaround strategy “will be implemented after the budgeting process, but financial restraints will always be an issue”.
“The department recognises the fact that there are burning issues in these communities.”
She said: “We have rapid response teams attending to pressure points where services are needed ... We are increasing the rapid response teams’ capacity internally ... Provinces are assisting local government with problems that arise.
“In future, we are aiming for a two-day turnaround with rapid response,” Qinga Vika said.
Read more from Tarryn Harbour
Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn
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