Speech notes: COGTA Annual Report for 2017/18

THE COLLAPSE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT – THE BEGINNING OF THE END

  • The collapse of local government, the first sign of the end of days for the government of the day.
  • Service delivery will buckle and the society’s most vulnerable will suffer the most.

Honourable Speaker, honourable Premier, Honourable Members and guests, good afternoon.

Honourable Speaker, when the sphere of government closest to the people starts collapsing it is indicative that the whole system of government is starting to collapse like a house of cards. Pull one card out and everything come tumbling down.

This Province and the Department of COGTA have lost control of the violence, criminality and the total service delivery failure in municipalities such as Stutterheim in the Amahlathi Local Municipality.

The town has been under siege from violent protestors for more than a month.
Shots are being fired in town, buildings and vehicles set alight, roads blocked and businesses forced to lock their doors.

We were informed that businesses now have to provide municipal services such as water provision and that staff fear for their lives. The business community told us that this on-going chaos is having a negative impact on their businesses and they are worried about job losses.

There is no government leadership to be seen or felt in Stutterheim while the town burns, businesses suffer and jobs are on the line.

Residents and businesses in the past also complained that they have not received rates accounts for up to 6 months and rubbish have not been collected for at least three months.

Despite having written to Co-operative Governance and Traditional affairs MEC, Fikile Xasa, calling for the town to be placed under administration, there has been no intervention, except removing the Mayor. The recent news that the ANC has fired the Amahlathi Mayor Pateka Qaba and is in the process of dissolving the Mayoral Committee, is too little too late.

Honourable Speaker, another area of concern is the debt owed to ESKOM by local municipalities.

Bulk electricity supply interruptions were schedules to take place from the end of October in Dr Beyers Naude Municipality, Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality and Great Kei Local Municipality. DBNM and IYLM was able to reach an agreement with ESKOM which gave them breathing room till January, GKLM was unable to reach any agreement. However, I assure you the situation will remain the same for these municipalities come January because they simply do NOT have the money to pay ESKOM.

This matter is of great concern to residents, local businesses, the tourism industry and societies most vulnerable. It will have a negative effect on the economy in these already severely cash-strapped municipalities. It is fundamentally unfair to punish the residents of these municipalities for the failures of the administration of these municipalities to pay ESKOM and allowing the debt owed to ESKOM to run into millions.

It is further of concern that in terms of amalgamated municipalities such as Dr Beyers Naude Municipality, which was amalgamated from Camdeboo and Baviaans Municipalities (both of which have settled their ESKOM debt) and Ikwezi Municipality (who is responsible for the bulk of the R52 million debt). Towns in the former Camdeboo and Baviaans Municipalities will be punished severely for this historical debt.

The bottom line is this Honourable Speaker, we need serious intervention in these instances, not just from COGTA, but Provincial and National Treasury as well. Intervention must take place as a matter of urgency to prevent that our economy, our people and businesses in the Eastern Cape will be severely negatively affected due to carrying the unfair burden of failures by their municipalities and impractical amalgamations that was fundamentally detrimental to municipalities and their residents.

In fact, Honourable Speaker, most municipalities in the province do not have realistic budgets with 22 municipalities having adopted unfunded budgets. Great Kei and Dr Beyers Naude Municipalities will be subject to forensic investigations because of dismal financial management and at the end of the day it is the PEOPLE that suffer.

A survey conducted by Urban Africa asked households what they considered the main problem or difficulty facing municipalities in which they live:

• A lack of a safe and reliable water supply;

Just last week I wrote to the MEC about the small Karoo town of Klipplaat that had been without water for a week: over 2000 people in the Karoo town of Klipplaat have been without their Constitutional right of access to water for more than a week. Among the affected is the Hobson Khanyisa Primary School with 191 learners, the Brandovale Primary School with 470 learners and the Wongalethu Clinic that serves more than 300 people on a weekly basis.

According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, section 27 (1)(b), every person has the right to access to sufficient water. The section goes further in section 27 (2) in that the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.

The lack of water has not only left people without water it is posing a serious health risk in homes, schools and the clinic.

  • The cost of electricity and the lack of reliable electricity supply;
  • Inadequate housing and
  • Violence and crime.

Corruption, wasteful expenditure and poor administration place an enormous strain on the public purse. We need to use public money to create an enabling environment for economic growth and job creation in order to improve educational outcomes, to invest in the skills our people need to participate in the economy, to provide healthcare, housing and basic services and to fund and run protection services to keep our citizens safe.

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.

If a municipality is unable to properly administer the affairs of the municipality it must be placed under administration or dissolved. If a municipal council is not functioning in accordance to the letter of the law, it must be placed under administration or dissolved.

The Democratic Alliance will continue our efforts to root out corruption, incompetence, non-compliance and cadre deployment in municipalities.

Failure of a municipality to meet executive obligations is just a fancy way of saying – the municipality is failing its people. When local government and local municipalities start to collapse like Stutterheim and Enoch Mgijima, it is the beginning of the end.

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.

A DA government can bring the change that will create fair access to jobs, deliver better services, has a plan to keep communities safe by ensuring we have an honest a professional police service and Build One SA for All.

The DA supports the report by the Department.

Thank You.