The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, delivered her department’s budget vote in a National Assembly (NA) mini-plenary yesterday, while recognising the extent of the flood damage to infrastructure and human lives. Nonetheless, the department is determined to rehabilitate and reconstruct all the damaged infrastructure by using the more than R157.1 million from the Municipal Disaster Relief Grant that has been allocated to deal with the floods.

She also told the plenary that the department will ensure that existing and future infrastructure is climate-change resilient by employing experts to advise on infrastructure development projects.

In addition, 382 youth were enrolled in the departments technical skills apprenticeships and learnerships or were supported with bursaries to complete various graduate programmes. Currently, well over 100 young graduates have gained practical experience, so that they may complete their professional registration processes.

Meanwhile, a major concern is that 39 municipalities continue to spend below the 70% benchmark in the third quarter. This is being addressed by making use of capacity within municipalities’ district development hubs, especially those that are Water Service Authorities. The department is also reviewing the district development model so that the model becomes entrenched across all three spheres of government. This budget vote is mainly aimed at strengthening the capacity of municipalities, institutions of traditional leadership, community organisations and all organs of state to implement and mainstream disaster risk reduction management strategies, the minister said.

On the policy front, the Minister raised concerns about the inadequacies of the intergovernmental framework architecture which is incapable of facilitating the One Plans and One Budgets concept. “We have revised the Intergovernmental Framework Act Regulations to enable better joint planning. The proposed revisions are currently in front of the state law advisor, after months of intensive and extensive consultations.”

The Minister also welcomed the president promulgation of the Local Government Municipal Structures Amendment Act, which will enable a code of conduct for councillors and allow the MEC to remove a councillor from office for a breach of the code.

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Fikile Xasa, mentioned that now that the committee has received an update from the department on the coordination of disaster mitigation efforts, it is ready to visit the areas affected by floods. The committee will also monitor disaster management centre programme plans to ensure that provincial and local governments can deal effectively with any disasters.

 Mr Xasa also said that the committee has identified gaps in relation to the clarity of legislation regulating intergovernmental interventions, particularly in local municipalities, which can make problems worse than they were to begin with. He welcomed the department’s work to introduce a Bill to close these gaps, but criticised the slowness of its coming, as it has been in the works since the fourth administration.

Mr Xasa also noted the inappropriate allocation of functional roles between district and local municipalities and suggested that district functions should be revoked to enable them to fulfil their mandates. He called on the department to address the disproportional allocation of funds for administration overheads rather than to core mandates.   

Mr Cilliers Brink of the Democratic Alliance blamed the looming water shortage crisis in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on provincial and local government failures to act to avert it. This is a political crisis made worse by neglect and inaptitude, he maintained. He called on national government to come to the rescue, while also saying that this would not be necessary if provincial and local governments had done their jobs properly.

Ms Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi of the Economic Freedom Fighters said she couldn’t agree more with the sentiments stated above. She stressed that the dysfunctional state of municipalities has been public knowledge for some time, but there seems to be no appetite to fix the mess. Year in and year out, the Auditor-General makes findings about the lack of internal controls in municipalities, the inability to attract and retain competent staff or to manage and raise funds. In the face of this, the department has no overarching vision on how to improve inefficiencies at local government level. She criticised the structure of local government that seem to favour urban municipalities at the expense of rural one, which are then unable to pay salaries and deliver poor quality services.

 The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Ms Sbuyiselwe Buthelezi said that many institutional mechanisms are brought to life by the Constitution with the sole purpose of strengthening our democracy and building the vision of our nation. However, “these institutions can’t be another form of lining the pockets of officials.” And we need to ask “what do these institutions serve, if South Africans don’t benefit from them?”

Abel Mputing
18 May 2022