Tuesday, October 20, 2009

President Zuma Calls For Rethink on Municipalities

Zuma calls for rethink on municipalities


President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday condemned the violence of recent service-delivery protests, but also called for a major rethink on the role and functions of municipalities.

"It is clear that we need to do more, and that we need to do things differently," he told about 280 mayors and municipal managers from across the country in Cape Town.

He said it was possible some municipalities had been given functions they would never be able to fulfil, and that there was a need for "fundamental changes" in the way municipalities were governed.

The meeting, at a community hall in Khayelitsha, was also attended by 15 Cabinet ministers, their directors general and the nine provincial premiers.

Zuma said the meeting, most of which was closed to the media, was "not a local government inquisition but a discussion amongst colleagues and partners to find solutions".

He said recent service-delivery protests had become violent, criminal and destructive.

"I wish to take this opportunity to state without any ambiguity: this government will not tolerate the destruction of property, the violence and the intimidation that often accompanies protests," he said.

"There is no cause in a democratic and free society, however legitimate, that justifies the wanton destruction of property and violence that we have witnessed."

South Africa had a proud history of protest against wrongdoing and injustice, which was what made it the democracy it was today.

"However, burning down libraries, torching houses of people and looting spaza shops do not build a strong nation. It does not solve our legitimate problems."

But while the negative elements of some of the protests were condemned, it also had to be acknowledged that there were challenges that needed urgent attention.

Zuma said many municipalities were bankrupt, and some were owed revenue, even by other government spheres.

National and provincial government departments currently owed municipalities R53-million for services, something the leaders in those departments needed to act on without delay.

Power struggles
In addition, many municipalities faced a "deep crisis of governance" due to political power struggles.

"These battles for control over resources render the affected municipalities effectively dysfunctional," he said.

Some municipalities lacked the basic administrative systems necessary for collecting the revenue to fund service delivery. There was also weak financial management, which often resulted in irregular spending, corruption and adverse audit reports.

Zuma said there had to be a rethink on the role that other spheres of government played in the local government sphere. Experience showed the role of provincial and national spheres had not always been useful or productive.

"There are often too many administrative burdens they place on municipalities, too many requests for reports for this or that," he said to applause from his audience.

Sometimes the other two spheres of government made decisions that had serious implications for local government without consulting it.

"So if local government has to work better we have to drastically rethink the relationship between local government and the other spheres."

He asked whether municipalities with vastly different capacities could be expected to perform the same functions.

"Answering this question is important because it may well be the case that we have entrusted some responsibilities to certain municipalities which they can never be able to fulfil.

"It is equally possible that some municipalities, especially metros, can perform more functions than we have given them."

Zuma said it was clear fundamental reforms were needed in the way municipalities were governed. These should include separating executive functions from administrative ones.

"In some municipalities councillors tend to interfere in administrative management and operations of municipalities. They want to be mayor and municipal manager at the same time," he said, as Western Cape Premier and former Cape Town mayor Helen Zille, seated behind him, smiled to herself.

After Zuma's address the media were asked to leave the meeting.

Delegates were scheduled in a closed session to hear a "presentation on budget and economic crisis" by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, view a video on the presidential complaints hotline, then spend an hour-and-a-half talking about "service-delivery improvement at a local level". -- Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-10-20-zuma-calls-for-rethink-on-municipalities

Zuma: Violent protests won't solve our problems

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA Oct 20 2009 11:06

The government will not tolerate the destruction of property and the violence that often accompanies service-delivery protests, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.

"There is no cause in a democratic and free society, however legitimate, that justifies the wanton destruction of property and violence that we have witnessed," he said.

Zuma was addressing about 280 mayors and municipal managers from across the country at a meeting in Cape Town.

His remarks follow a wave of violent protests in municipalities, many of them accompanied by clashes with police.

Zuma said South Africa has a proud history of protest against wrongdoing and injustice.

"This is our heritage. It is what makes South Africa the vibrant democracy it is today, and will continue to be in the future.

"However, burning down libraries, torching houses of people, and looting spaza shops do not build a strong nation. It does not solve our legitimate problems."

Zuma said that while condemning the negative elements of some of the protests, it has to be acknowledged there are challenges that need urgent attention.

He said the Cape Town meeting, being held in a community hall in Khayelitsha, is an attempt to arrive at ways to make municipalities work better. -- Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-10-20-zuma-violent-protests-wont-solve-our-problems

Angry Sakhile residents demand Zuma's attention


The acrid smell of burning tyres filled Sakhile township on Thursday as angry residents vowed violent protests until President Jacob Zuma heeds their service delivery complaints.

In the latest of several recent flare-ups in South Africa, thick black smoke hung over Sakhile's rubbish-strewn streets three weeks after the area was transformed into a no-go area.

Frustrated residents want Zuma, who took office in May, to respond personally to their plight.

"President Zuma promised to rid government of corruption and lazy officials. Our council here is busy lining their pockets with the money meant for improving our living conditions," said Sandile Mahlangu.

"We have ran out of patience, there is going to be no order here until Zuma visits the area and appoints an interim structure to run this municipality," said Mahlangu, an unemployed young man.

In just five months, Zuma's government has faced a wave of demonstrations in poor informal settlements where demands for access to water, electricity and housing have turned violent.

In Sakhile, residents have barricaded roads and set government buildings alight. Police responded by firing rubber bullets and making several arrests.

The flare-up of violence and a spate of recent strikes have turned up the pressure on the hugely popular Zuma who took power with strong support from unions and the poor, who now want to see some action.

"We will continue burning tyres, we have had enough. Action is better than words," said Mahlangu.

Amid reports of expensive ministerial car purchases, recessionary pressures and attacks from the left, Zuma remains billed as a leader who is in touch with South Africans facing massive inequality.

In August, he drew plaudits with a surprise visit to a protest-hit Mpumalanga township, followed by the launch of a toll-free complaints hotline which lodged more than 7 000 calls in just three hours.

"Zuma's pro-poor election card raises the expectation of the people, now they want to see his face everytime there is a service delivery protest," political analyst Prince Mashele told Agence France-Presse.

One Sakhile resident, Thembi Motha, said the riot was the result of years of neglect by the council and the ruling African National Congress which Nelson Mandela led to power in 1994 at the fall of apartheid.

"This protest was not supposed to turn out like this, but people are angry. We want Zuma to come and drive out these useless officials. They are the cause of all this," he said.

The ANC has said that Zuma has been advised not to visit Sakhile despite his promise to visit trouble spots unannounced.

"It would be unfair for residents to demand that every time there are service delivery protests, then the president should come and address them," the Times newspaper quoted a spokesperson as saying.

Several top politicians arrived in Standerton on Thursday to meet local councillors with of a crowd of residents waiting outside the building for an outcome amid a heavy police presence.

"We will not accept any decision which does not respect our demands," said 56-year-old resident Margaret Sibiya. -- AFP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-10-15-angry-sakhile-residents-demand-zumas-attention

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