Presentation of Report of Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

Taking legislature to the People

Elliotdale, Amathole District Municipality
18 October 2018

A MAYDAY CALL FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENT – SAVE OUR SOULS

The sphere of government closest to the people has been sending out a distress call for years to no avail. Many local municipalities in the Eastern Cape are on the brink of collapse as they face severe financial challenges, are unable to deliver services and are hamstrung by continuous service delivery protests.

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable members and guests, good afternoon.

Honourable Speaker, the core function of local government is to deliver basic services, provide clean drinking water, electricity, sanitation, shelter, waste removal and roads. These are basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution and these are essential components of the right to dignity.

Service Delivery in the Eastern Cape is buckling under the pressure of maladministration, huge amounts of irregular expenditure and corruption, at the end of the day it is the people of the province who suffer, amongst them is South Africa’s most vulnerable.

This report speaks repeatedly of service delivery protests, poor infrastructure, irregular appointments, irregular expenditure and non-compliance with audit recommendations.

Our municipalities are under threat of having their electricity cut off due to massive debts owed to ESKOM, some municipalities are facing severe drought and have started programmes of water shedding. Others are under threat of constant political and administrative instability.

While people were hoping for a better South Africa 24 years after democracy, they are under a constant threat that the promises of a better life are dwindling away.

Honourable Speaker, a persistent lack of maintenance, poor security, bad project planning, ineffective public servants, corrupt politicians and business people, poor service delivery and not enough capital expenditure (because it’s all going on public service salaries) are conspiring to shake the infrastructure of South Africa. Government has become an employment agency. Almost the entire budgets of municipalities are going to cost of employment with nothing left for service delivery. You should be delivering services first, then do everything else. Service delivery is just simply not a priority.

This report speaks continuously of irregular expenditure. Irregular expenditure of R13.55-billion‚ 48% of the total‚ was incurred by municipalities in the Eastern Cape. Half of irregular expenditure has taken place in the Eastern Cape. Honourable Speaker, not just is this completely unacceptable, it is an indictment of the leadership in our local municipalities, further, it depicts insufficiencies by COGTA. It is factors like these that directly impact on the decline in investor confidence in the province and within the poor performing municipalities, which adds to the high unemployment rates in this province.

Communities often express their unhappiness and frustration with poor service delivery, lack of access to water, maladministration, and corruption through protests, which have been occurring regularly across the province. I want to use the example of Stutterheim where protestors are burning municipal buildings and causing chaos due to allegations of corruption, nepotism and poor service delivery. According to reports an estimated 500 local youths burned four Amahlathi Local Municipality buildings and tyres, stoned vehicles and blocked roads.

Only a DA government can create fair access to jobs and deliver better services. Violence is not the answer, but the people can go to the ballot boxes in 2019 and vote for the DA to ensure real change and to Build One SA for All.

We face enormous service delivery and development challenges as a country. These challenges can only be addressed by a government with the necessary political will to ensure that all its resources are used in the service of the people of South Africa and with the necessary systems, capacity and skills to deliver services effectively.

What is of further concern is the number of municipalities that are struggling to follow the letter of the law and are simply flouting provisions of local government legislation such as the Systems Act, the Structures Act and the MFMA, and it is interesting to note that these are the same municipalities that find themselves in financial distress.

Honourable Speaker, what is going on in Eastern Cape Municipalities is corruption of the highest order. When we leave this chamber at the end of our tenure, people will ask us if we fought corruption, and we must be able to answer that question with a clear conscience and say YES, I have fought corruption. But it is not enough to just say that we have fought corruption, we must be able to say we fought corruption and triumphed. We must be able to say that we have eradicated corruption in its entirety and that we have put measures in place to prevent it. We must be fully accountable! Our responsibility is colossal.

Honourable Deputy Speaker, every effort of government must be focussed on improving the lives of South Africans. As we continue to fight against the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, we need all spheres of government and all organs of state to effectively deliver on their responsibilities to make South Africa a better place to live for all the people.

Honourable Speaker:
Instead of driving issues we are trying to mitigate the aftermath of violent service delivery protests.
Instead of fighting poverty, delivering services and putting people in this province on the path to prosperity we are struggling to keep half of our municipalities financially viable.
Instead of investing money to realise key deliverable outputs of service delivery and infrastructure we are spending 82.1% of the budget on compensation of employees.

We should be focusing on improving the lives of our people, instead we are focussing on maladministration, fraud, corruption and the malicious flouting of legislative prescripts by rogue municipalities.

Our time should be better spent.
Our money should be better spent.
Our resources should be better spent.
And our people should have been much better off, 24 years after democracy.

Honourable Speaker, there is a complete inability by the state to drive meaningful social and economic change. Violent protests and lawlessness rule the day and we are only one spark away from complete anarchy if we don’t act now!

Yet, the Department has no budget set aside for the rapid response unit.

In conclusion Honourable Speaker, effective government and governance can improve the lives of all South Africa’s people. Our decisions and actions as government must be aimed at delivering these improvements to all South Africans. Let us always put the people first.

The Democratic Alliance will continue in our efforts to root out incompetence, non-compliance, cadre deployment and corruption in government in general and in local municipalities specifically in order to build one South Africa for all.

Thank you.