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Bongani Baloyi leaving Midvaal as mayor is a great loss

Even in the midst of the progressive strides over the past 27 years, South African municipalities and state-owned companies are grossly blemished by dysfunction, negligence and corruption. Offices that are habitually occupied by leaders who have forgotten the radical promises they made and the rhetoric they spewed around election time, leaders who no longer care for the needs of the most vulnerable and instead selfishly cater to their own and of those close to them.

In essence, we have a leadership vacuum in many communities. We lack ubuntu. We struggle to care for each other to the point where we find our own lacking basic needs and services. 

It has become standard to witness township or shack dwellers without access to running water, housing and electricity. It has become a norm to watch informal settlements burn to ash in the coldest of winters or families evicted from their homes with nowhere else to go. 

When citizens constantly take to the streets to demand their human rights we ought to acknowledge that our systems need a fundamental change and our people need genuine and dedicated leaders who are willing to foster real change in their conditions.

Gauteng municipalities, in particular, are in crisis. It is reported that they have lost a whopping R5-billion in revenue due to Covid-19, among other persistent issues, such as wasteful expenditure, unpaid bills and poor oversight, to name a few. Some municipalities blame their poor performances on the pandemic, citing staff shortages, significantly reduced municipal revenue and prolonged lockdowns, which led to economic inactivity and further strains on already meagre cash flows.

This comes as no surprise. Municipalities were expected to provide additional services to communities during the lockdown. The president announced additional funding of R20-billion to be made available to municipalities to assist with sanitisation, provide emergency water and support vulnerable communities. 

Water for Covid relief

Although this injection of funds was hefty, it was seemingly not enough to alleviate the pressure on the already weakened municipalities. Much-needed interventions were made by the department of water and sanitation, where water tankers were provided in rural municipalities, but these were short-term solutions, provided in the context of Covid-19. We now need longer-term solutions that will provide water to all in the future. 

Covid-19 has brought many trials and local governments are continually faced with difficult trade-offs pertaining to health, economic and social challenges.

Midvaal’s star mayor

Midvaal local municipality’s Bongani Baloyi has proven equal to the task of quality leadership in these difficult times. He has consistently shown us through his stellar performances as executive mayor. Under his stewardship the municipality has achieved its seventh consecutive clean audit, meaning the auditor general has found no material misstatements nor misrepresentations in the municipality’s financial records and the records are in accordance with the law and regulations relating to spending on public funds, resulting in an unqualified opinion from the auditor general. 

Midvaal remains the top-performing municipality in Gauteng province while continuing to be recognised as the most sustainable municipality and receiving numerous awards for clean governance, even during the pandemic. 

Midvaal local municipality was shut down completely once and had a few cases of coronavirus, which served as a disruption and a challenge to the executive mayor’s team. 

Midvaal was recently awarded the Golden Arrow award for doing the most to combat crime, create jobs, clean up the environment and develop infrastructure. 

This is a reflection of Baloyi’s dedication to render the best service to the residents of Midvaal. His efforts have left an indelible mark in his community. Baloyi has delivered on his mandate to serve the people, ensure that governance is clean, finances are well managed and that consequence management occurs. His track record is stellar. Under Baloyi, Midvaal went from being the 16th-best performing municipality in 2013 to the 5th-best in 2021. 

“Service delivery is in our priority list, our commitment is to the residents of Midvaal local municipality,” he said. “The municipality will continue to hold its employees and its political custodians accountable while promoting stable governance and furthering the interests of the residents of Midvaal.”

Safe, clean hands that can be relied upon to hold the public finances in local government are few and far between. The late auditor general, Kimi Makwetu, once remarked that Midvaal was one of the few municipalities whose financial statements told a good story of how well the municipality was managed. Managing consecutive clean audits in the middle of a pandemic is an even more tremendous feat, particularly when municipalities and companies countrywide have sustained blows.

Baloyi is a young, black man who embodies the kind of leadership that the heroes who sacrificed their lives fighting for our democracy would have loved to see in this day and age. A trailblazer whose acts should be replicated by leaders in every domain of governance. Baloyi has relentlessly challenged the status quo, is an agent of change and a breaker of stale, rigid rules that no longer serve a greater purpose. He is exceptionally intelligent and already a seasoned leader, and has refused to adopt the typical brand of grandiose promises and gibberish that most politicians do. 

Baloyi has said he will not run for another term after his term ends in 2021. This is nothing short of a tragedy. It is a heavy blow to Midvaal local municipality and to governance in South Africa as a whole. The public sector desperately needs high-calibre leaders to reverse the rampant rot. 

Baloyi’s legacy will hopefully continue to play out even in his absence and we can only hope that his successors will emulate his incredible work.

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Elizabeth Khumalo
Elizabeth Khumalo is an accountant, researcher and associate contributor at SIP Media and chief financial officer of Gamont

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