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Calls for removal of unethical local government leaders at Salga conference

Amos Masondo, the former mayor of the City of Johannesburg and chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, has lambasted the slow pace at which certain provinces react to issues that affect local government.

“We have noted with great concern the poor intervention by provinces on issues affecting local government. There is no uniformity at all when it comes to provinces and implementing section 139 of the Constitution. Provinces do not seem to be keen on  establishing platforms where wrongdoing can be addressed at local government level,” he said.

He was speaking during the first day of the South African Local Government Association’s (Salga) national members assembly. The two-day conference was convened to assess preparations for the local government elections in October, and to look at the transition to the fifth democratic administration.

“Local government is centred around restoring the dignity of people and therefore you need ethical people to do that. Our municipalities have a crisis of poor financial management or planning to attract revenue, and they need to be capacitated there,” Masondo said.

Consequence management must be implemented, and those found to have acted “wrongly” or who were found to be corrupt “must be dealt with in a manner that sends a clear message”, he said. 

“This must be done firmly. We should firstly, acknowledge the challenges and work collectively in resolving them.”

Giving an overview of Salga, president Thembisile Nkadimeng said:  “Many municipalities have told us that they need to be capacitated first before any criticism is applied to them. We must be able to take responsibility for the dire state that our local government is in.” 

Nkadimeng said that despite the underperformance of many local municipalities, there were some that were severely under-resourced and were defying the odds. 

“It’s really difficult to find a well-functioning municipality in the Eastern Cape, for example. But there is a Senqu local municipality running its finances in a shack. With little [or] close to no financial resources, they have been getting clean audits for eight years consecutively. They are a good model and need to be equipped now,” she said. 

“The provincial government cannot claim to have done anything for that municipality. Look, once they get only one bad audit, we will run into them as if we didn’t know about their problems of little capacity,” said Nkadimeng.

“We cannot punish Senqu because it doesn’t even have enough proper water supply, crucial posts are not filled and they have no proper incentive from the government. Other municipalities must just draw lessons from them.”

The deputy speaker of the national assembly, Lechesa Tsenoli, said one of the biggest problems for local municipalities was underfunding, particularly in the areas of waste management and sanitation.

“Although there are mistakes that can be avoided by municipalities, we cannot run away from the fact that there is little funding that the treasury gives the municipalities. Government alone can only do so much, but with other stakeholders aboard a lot can be done. Many of our problems result from poor maintenance and the inability to learn. We must take on the effort to encourage people to assist the government in bringing community solutions,” Tsenoli said.

“This assumption that municipalities can create revenue needs to be reconsidered. Wherever it comes from it must be fixed, because from the onset municipalities are given very little to do so much for the people on the ground.” 

Nkadimeng said employing people out of favouritism or based on political association was detrimental to municipalities and service delivery.  

“Hire appropriately qualified individuals, for us to effectively deliver. Government has not created policies that say tenders or jobs must be given to friends and relatives. If we don’t have the right people in the right positions the chaos in local government will be a continuous cycle. Managers in the legal departments of municipalities should be capacitated to employ the right candidates.”

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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