Friday, 26 November 2021

Cape Town: With about 70 councils hung in several municipalities after the recent municipal elections, which led to majority and minority parties to hold coalition negotiations to constitute councils, President Cyril Ramaphosa says a new unit will be established in the Presidency to help local government fulfil its service delivery obligations.

He said this when he responded to oral questions In the National Assembly on Thursday.

“We must ensure that these councils provide the services that people need and create an environment conducive to the growth of businesses and the creation of employment. Ultimately, this will depend on the political will, commitment and capabilities of the parties and individuals running these municipalities.

“As national government, we are firmly committed to support all municipalities in ensuring that they fulfil their responsibility to the people they were elected to serve.

“We will be establishing a unit in the Presidency that will allow [us] to have a closer focus on local government,” said the President.

The President said it was significant that on the same day that the Local Government Elections on 1 November were held, the Municipal Structures Amendment Act No 3 of 2021 came into effect.

He said the interventions that were introduced through these amendments will go a long way towards addressing many governance challenges that have been experienced by municipalities, and to ensure improved and sustained service delivery to all communities.

The Amendment Act strengthened the Code of Conduct for Councillors and makes it mandatory for all municipal councils to establish Municipal Public Accounts Committees.

The purpose of these committees will be to review various reports and thereafter make recommendations to the municipal council. The Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, National Treasury and SALGA will, soon after all municipal councils have been constituted, embark on an intensive councillor induction programme, the President said.

“This aims to ensure all our newly elected councillors, especially those who are serving for the first time, receive the appropriate orientation to effectively perform their duties as councillors, and where appropriate, the specific roles and responsibilities that are entrusted to municipal office-bearers, such as Speaker, Mayor, Executive Mayor or Whip.

“We are confident that these interventions that we are making will help to strengthen governance at a local level.

“However, the achievement of stable well-managed municipalities that provide quality services to all residents depends on effective collaboration between all political parties, all local stakeholders and the different spheres of government,” he said.

The current situation in local government – including the unprecedented number of councils where no party has an outright majority – is the product of a democratic process.

“On the 1st of November, the people of South Africa freely and fairly, and in conditions of peace and stability, voted for the people and parties they want to represent them in municipalities.This is the will of the people and we must accept it.”

He said while there are certainly particular challenges associated with so-called ‘hung’ municipalities, the challenges are by no means insurmountable.

“And while the country’s experience of coalition or minority government at a local level has not always been favourable, it is essential that we nevertheless make these councils work, for the sake of the people of these municipalities.” said the President.