The Committee Members unanimously elected Mr S L Tsenoli as the Chairperson, and he gave Members the opportunity to discuss matters, including the proposed agenda, in breakaway groups for a while.
The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Sicelo Shiceka, addressed the Committee, noting that service delivery was critical and required input from everyone. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs would shortly be releasing one document on the state of local government, and another that would detail a turnaround strategy. He ascribed the problems in local government and municipalities to five main factors. The first was the lack of proper implementation of laws and policies of South Africa, and he criticised Parliament for not playing an active enough oversight role. Corruption was rampant, and cut across party political lines. The second problem was the struggle for jobs and nepotism within the municipalities, while both inter- and intra-party conflicts were a huge stumbling block causing negative impacts on service delivery. The employment of people who clearly lacked the rights skills was also problematic. All of these issues had led to the service delivery crisis. Councillors were failing to report back to their constituents, either because they did not want to be challenged, or because the ward committees were not functioning optimally, or because councilors themselves lacked capacity and their inputs were being undermined. As a result, community issues were not being advanced. The anger of communities led to violence. Provinces were not helping because their reports did not reflect the realities. He noted the importance of parliament and suggested that it must more strongly call upon people to account. The documents would be provided once approved by Cabinet. He concluded that service delivery issues must be de-politicised, and that all civil society and public organisations must assist in the revitalisation processes. The Chairperson noted that Members would be given the chance to engage further with the Minister after having received the reports.
Election of Chairperson
Ms Shereen Cassiem, Committee Secretary, noted that the meeting was open. She called for nominations for the election of a Chairperson, in terms of Rule 129 of the National Assembly rules.
There were two nomination, from the ANC and DA, but the DA withdrew its nominee before the election.
Mr S L Tsenoli (ANC) was unanimously elected as the Chairperson of the Committee.
The Chairperson stressed that the Committee needed to understand the work that the Department was doing and the background, and for this reason the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had been invited to brief the Committee on the turn around strategy.
The Chairperson proposed that Members form break-away groups according to their political parties.
Mr T Botha (COPE) asked if the Committee could deal with the documentation in front of it while waiting for the Minister.
Ms M Borman (DA) wanted to know if the dates for the planned oversight visit were set absolutely, or could be changed.
The Chairperson said that nothing in the document was finalised and political parties were free to suggest changes to the programme. He asked leaders of political parties to submit names of their members and indicate which provinces they would visit.
Mr M Mdakane (ANC) proposed that the Committee should have a mandate on which provinces would be visited so that members could be able to choose.
These issues were then discussed in breakaway groups.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (the Minister) briefing
The Chairperson explained that the Minister was invited by the Committee to inform the Members about the turn around strategy. This briefing was of crucial importance to the new Committee and its Members. This was a large Committee of about 43 members and that the names were listed in the ATC.
Mr Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, expressed his appreciation and noted that the Committee was very large, which he hoped would enable it to be a powerful resource that was able to contribute to matters of local government and service delivery.
He explained that matters of service delivery were critical and required the input of all South Africans. People needed to rise above political inclinations and party political battles. He told the Members that his Department would release two documents – one on the state of local government, and the other a turnaround strategy. He noted that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) had developed a report on the current state of all municipalities in the country. He stated that the current state of municipalities was caused primarily by five factors.
Firstly, he cited that lack of implementation of the laws and policies of the country was a major problem. He criticised Parliament for not playing an active oversight role in this regard. He mentioned that corruption was rampant and cut across party political lines. He said people wanted to influence the procurement processes and that battles were fought around procurement rather than political ideologies. He made an example of one municipality in KwaZulu Natal, where it was discovered that the officials had embezzled R18 million. He said corruption was taking place in all municipalities, irrespective of whether they were controlled by ANC, IFP or DA.
The second critical problem facing municipalities was the struggle for jobs and nepotism. He revealed that in some municipalities councillors were employing people in the municipality, although this was the task of the municipal managers. Once again, he emphasised that laws made by Parliament were not followed.
Thirdly, he noted that the inter-party conflicts constituted a huge stumbling block and they had a negative impact on service delivery.
Fourthly, he said many municipalities also faced intra-party conflicts and the source of these conflicts was nothing other than the struggle to access resources.
Lastly, the Minister told the Committee that the employment of people without skills was negatively affecting the delivery of services. He gave an example of a cleaner who was elevated to the position of a CEO. In another municipality there was a CEO who did not even understand when the financial year started and ended.
The Minister pointed out that the combination and culmination of these issues had led to the service delivery crisis. He added that the state of municipalities angered the public, who were directly affected by the state of affairs. Some councillors became very arrogant and failed to report back to their constituencies because they were scared. He added that in many municipalities councillors failed to report back because ward committees were not functioning optimally or were nonexistent. Many councillors lacked capacity, and their inputs from the community were undermined by municipalities. The councillors were also scared to report back on their failures to advance community issues on to the agenda. He said that it was under these frustrating conditions that people resorted to violence.
He revealed further that many provinces did not know what was happening at municipal levels. Provinces were submitting reports that did not reflect the reality. He said there was litany of issues affecting service delivery. He stressed that the protests were not only organised by African communities but also by some white communities and rate payers associations, and that some “traditionally white” suburbs were angry because they felt they were marginalised.
The Minister told the Committee that he believed that Members of Parliament should get reports so that they could call people to account. He alluded to the importance of the Parliamentary institution, which played a critical role in the South African democracy and which therefore had to be respected.
He promised that by the end of the year the 'turn around strategy' document would be circulated to the Committee and the South African public, since by this stage it would have been adopted by Cabinet. He stressed that the service delivery question was an important issue that needed to be depoliticised, because it affected everyone. He said South Africa needed to have a structure of all organisations, and this must include all civil society groups such as business, unions, churches, and youth, to monitor the implementation of service delivery. He said civil society needed to assist in the revitalisation of ward committees or formation of new similar structures in order to enhance participation. He concluded that municipalities across the country needed to present plans as to what projects or programmes would they implement, so that by June, during budget votes, they had a clear picture of what it was that they must do, and so that by July they could start on implementation.
Mr P Smith (IFP) asked if Members would be allowed to engage with the Minister, since his report raised many critical issues.
The Chairperson felt that it would be more appropriate to do so after Members had received the reports and the necessary documentation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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