When it comes to local government, then ‘local is lekker’ does not apply and the opposite is more likely. For many years municipalities have made concessions in terms of rates and taxes that apply to benevolent organisations, including institutions that care for traumatised children. Sadly, this has changed and one can only assume that municipalities do not embrace social responsibility as part of their corporate conduct or in business practise.
Every year without fail, the release of the Auditor-General results on municipalities and municipal entities is the only time that local government is consistently in the news. We are bombarded with news about the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ performing municipalities, but this is done in a manner that separates municipal financial management from the core business of local government- service delivery.
Barely three months into her new job, Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality’s newly appointed municipal manager, Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela, faces suspension. The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has applied to court to compel the municipality to place Msengana-Ndlela on special leave. Interestingly, unlike many similar court battles about municipal managers, there are no allegations of misconduct or concerns about performance but questions about whether she is in fact qualified to be a municipal manager.
South Africa’s municipalities are a contested terrain. Divisions within (and between) political parties are overflowing into the life of municipalities, rendering some of them dysfunctional. Factionalism, patronage politics and corruption, maladministration, cadre deployment, political interference and a conflation of the party and the state have all contributed to the erosion of democratic, accountable and effective local government in some municipalities, while it has hindered service delivery provision in others.
The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty say corruption and a lack of legislated decision-making powers are the biggest obstacles to improving local government.
The two organisations say corruption, along with municipalities’ lack of legislated decision-making powers, are the largest obstacles to the improvement of local government in the country.
The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) says that climate change is affecting the way in which municipal spaces are managed.
Speaking at IBSA Local Government meeting for knowledge sharing on Climate Change response, SALGA deputy chairperson, Mpho Nawa, says that SALGA’s view is that climate change is causing severe natural consequences in our communities.
He says the meeting shared experiences and perspectives about climate change before the upcoming conference in Durban.
Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, says that municipalities could have saved R27 billion in the previous financial year - that is R74 million per day by cutting down on unnecessary expenses.
Gordhan urged new council members to, “Cut down on non-essentials and get your planning, budgets, service delivery and bureaucracy right.”
Speaking at the launch of the Treasury’s latest financial municipal oversight report, Gordhan said that new council members have to “forget about fancy extras like brand new Mercedes-Benzes.”
The Constitutional Court has dismissed an application by residents of Moutse, who challenged two laws that relocated parts of their municipality from the Mpumalanga to Limpopo.
The matter involving Moutse, once a cross-border municipality straddling the Limpopo-Mpumalanga border, is the last of the cases where the Constitutional Court has had to decide on the constitutionality of the legislation on cross-border municipalities and the question of public participation.
Afesis-corplan, an Eastern Cape-based NGO contributing to community-driven development and good local governance in the Border-Kei region, has embarked on initiatives aimed at holding public officials accountable.
The organisation’s contention is that despite extensive legal and policy provisions geared towards ensuring the practice of good local governance in South African municipalities, the reality of local governance practice often falls well short of the policy ideals.
Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, has announced that the local government elections will take place on 18 May 2011.
Addressing the National Council of Provinces, Motlanthe, who is acting president while President, Jacob Zuma, is abroad, said the term of municipal councils will end soon.
In addition, Motlanthe has called upon all South Africans to make full use of the last voter registration weekend of 5-6 March 2011, set by the IEC to ensure that their names appear correctly on the voters roll.