Report castigates cadre deployment in municipalities

The government’s state of the cities report, released this week, paints a bleak picture of the state of South Africa’s major municipalities, saying local government is one of the least trusted public institutions and municipalities are “remote and unresponsive”.

The report also delivers a stinging verdict on the failure of cadre deployment, remarking that senior council managers and councillors are often political appointments “and lack the skills required to do their jobs properly”.

Deficient professional capacity had resulted in underinvestment in bulk infrastructure, poor project planning and management and neglected operations and maintenance.

The deputy minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Yunus Carriem, told the Mail & Guardian that the provision in the newly amended Municipal Systems Act that bans political office-bearers from serving as municipal employees is a tacit admission that cadre deployment has not worked.

“The ANC has to provide strategic and political oversight of the municipalities we win and this can be done in a variety of ways. But it doesn’t mean deploying senior ANC officials, regardless of their managerial and technical skills, as senior municipal managers,” Carriem said.

“It is the poor, the ANC’s constituency, that suffers most with incompetent senior municipal managers. In any case, senior ANC officials are meant to provide effective political leadership to the party’s structures, not get fully absorbed in the day-to-day activities of municipalities.” The report was commissioned by government to review the past decade of local government.

It notes that local government has been criticised “for its lack of openness, unresponsiveness and poor consultation and its standing in society has deteriorated over the past decade. It is one of the least trusted public institutions in the country.”

Among its other findings is that local government has made few inroads into transforming where and how people live and has not done enough to promote urban integration.

The report comes a month before the local government elections, in which voters will choose who will run their towns and cities for the next five years.

Generally, it finds that the metro councils — Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ethekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town — are better at providing services, but also experience the most service delivery protests.

The report argues that because people have moved to the cities for better services, they are more prepared to take action. “[Metros] are struggling to manage the huge social and economic implications of urbanisation and apartheid spatial planning. This convergence of pressures has created dangerous conditions for social instability. Public protests are common, widespread and often violent.”

The report also finds that the breakdown of trust between communities and elected councillors, combined with internal political party factionalism, has resulted in instability and undermined decision-making in many places.

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Mandy Rossouw
Guest Author

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