Local Government Elections: Deputy Minister's briefing; Departments Public Service & Administration, Cooperative Governance &Traditional Affairs Strategic Plans & Budgets 2011

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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs addressed the meeting on the significance of the recent municipal election results, saying that as service delivery had been a key issue, this had placed the focus on local government. However, during a forthcoming summit, there would need to be consensus for the development of a new local government financial model, as part of the Local Government Turnaround Strategy. This would involve looking at factors such the size of municipalities and their capacity to raise their own resources, in order to determine the functions and powers allocated to them.

The Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) and Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA) outlined their mandates, strategies, goals and budgets.  In both instances, emphasis was placed on service delivery. Priorities for the DCoG included strengthening the capacity and capability of the Department, improving cooperative governance across the three spheres, including review and amendment of local government policy and legislation, improving municipal financial and administrative capability, refining the Ward Committee system, and implementing different approaches to municipal financing, planning and support. There was also a need to improve access to basic services and implement the community workers programmes, as well as facilitating economic development at local level. The DTA outlined that it would need to ensure that the institution of traditional leadership was transformed and could partner with government in community development. It was intended that this department would be fully operational by 2011, but only 43 of the 128 funded posts had been filled so far. The DTA had conducted an assessment on the state of governance in traditional affairs. The work of this department overlapped with various others, so there was a need to establish partnerships aligned to the vision to have an effective and efficient institution of traditional affairs that enhanced sustainable development and service delivery. The budgets of both departments were briefly outlined and broken down.

Members highlighted the plight of the Khoisan people, and their struggle to achieve recognition, and asked for details of legislative plans to accommodate their recognition. Members also questioned the delays in staffing the DTA as a separate entity and asked for details of the DCoG’s job creation projects. They questioned the delay in the passing of the Traditional Courts Bill, which resided with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, noted that it had taken far too long to create the indigent register, and that the majority of municipalities did not have indigent policies in place, and noted that communities were becoming frustrated at the lack of service delivery. It was questioned whether the promotion of monitoring mechanisms could avoid service delivery protests. Concerns were also expressed that disaster management needed attention, particularly by urging communities and municipalities to ensure that they did not build in flood-prone areas. The Committee were also concerned that the National House of Traditional Leaders was described as “dysfunctional”, in part owing to persistent in-fighting, and said that there should be an urgent meeting between the Committee, the National House of Traditional Leaders and the Department, to clarify and address the concerns.


Meeting report

Local Government Elections: Deputy Minister Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs briefing
Mr Yunus Carrim Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), said the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) viewed the recent municipal elections as remarkable, as there had been a 57% turnout - compared to the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) forecast of 40% - and the process had been peaceful, and no results had been queried. However, the electorate had indicated that their votes were not unconditional, in the sense that future support was conditional upon service delivery.  This placed the focus on local government. A major summit meeting would be held in July to discuss issues that both the Select and Portfolio Committees on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had been noting for years – namely, that the current financial model for local government was not sustainable, and that there needed to be consensus on the development of a new model as part of the Local Government Turnaround Strategy (LGTAS). This would involve looking at factors such the size of municipalities and their capacity to raise their own resources, in order to determine the functions and powers allocated to them.  He described the turnaround strategy was a “do or die” matter, as communities were demanding service delivery, and action therefore needed to be accelerated.

The Deputy Minister was excused from the meeting.

Department of Cooperative Governance : Strategic plan and budget 2011
Dr Keneilwe Sebego, Chief Operating Officer, Department of Cooperative Governance said that the Deputy Minister’s opening remarks reflected the primary mandate of the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG or the Department) to develop and monitor the implementation of national policy and legislation that could transform and strengthen key institutions and mechanisms of governance, so that they could fulfil their developmental role, develop structures to enable integrated service delivery and implementation within government, and promote sustainable development, by providing support to, and exercising oversight over, provincial and local government.  In the light of the recent elections, a key aspect of the mission statement was the “achievement of social cohesion through the creation of enabling mechanisms for communities to participate in governance”. This would enable the government to remain abreast of community needs.

He noted the Department’s priorities in the coming year. These included the following:
•To strengthen the capacity and capability of the department to deliver on its mandate – with measurable goals to allow progress to be monitored.
•To improve cooperative governance across the three spheres, including a review and amendment of local government policy and legislation.
•To improve municipal financial and administrative capability.
•To implement a “single window“ of coordination.
•To deepen democracy through a refined Ward Committee system.
•To implement a differentiated approach to municipal financing, planning and support.
•To deliver initiatives supportive of the human settlements outcomes.
•To improve access to basic services.
•To implement the Community Workers Programme (CWP).
•To facilitate economic development at local level.

The last three priorities were aimed specifically at strengthening local community development.

It was outlined that the total budget for 2011-12 was R47,933 million, of which R34,214 million was earmarked for governance and intergovernmental relations, and R12,308 million for infrastructure and economic development.

Department of Traditional Affairs budget and strategic plan 2011
Prof Muzamani Nwaila, Director-General, Department of Traditional Affairs, gave a brief presentation on the strategic plan and budget vote of the Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA), as he had to leave early to attend another meeting.  After tracing the evolution of this department as a stand-alone entity, he said its mandate was to ensure that the institution of traditional affairs was transformed, and would become able to partner with government in community development. DTA would also coordinate the traditional affairs activities of government at all levels, as well as with other stakeholders and entities. 

It was intended that DTA should be fully operational by 2011. However only 43 of the 128 funded posts had been filled so far.  An assessment on the state of governance within traditional affairs had been conducted, covering nine key areas, and the feedback had been consistent in all six provinces covered.  A wide range of stakeholders had been consulted, such as traditional leaders, Contralesa, mayors, councillors, premiers, MECs and government officials, with the ultimate goal of establishing baseline information, and of  harmonising, synchronising and improving efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. Analysis of the assessment had led to the development of the strategic plans for 2011-2014. 

Traditional affairs covered areas such as heritage, linguistic diversity and multilingualism, culture, value systems, traditions and ethics, spirituality, traditional leadership and communities, governance, development and service delivery agenda, and restorative justice.  This meant that the DTA’s functions overlapped with other entities, such as the Departments of Rural Development and Land Reform, Social Development, Arts and Culture, Justice, the National Heritage Council, the National House of Traditional Leaders, and the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRLR). DTA therefore had to work in partnership with these other entities, and all partnerships had to be aligned to the department’s vision, which was to maintain an effective and efficient institution of traditional affairs that enhanced sustainable development and service delivery.

The DTA had developed three outcome-oriented strategic goals. He noted that the first was to establish an effective DTA, the second was to introduce effective governance systems for traditional affairs, and the third was to facilitate sustainable partnerships and collaboration for service delivery.  These were supported by six strategic objectives, which were prioritised for implementation over the next three years (see attached presentation for full details).

He outlined briefly that the DTA budget for this period was estimated at R83,769 million for 2011-12, R90, 419 million for 2012-13, and R96,96 million for 2013-14.

Prof Nwaila left the meeting at this stage.

Discussion
Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) questioned whether, when Prof Nwaila referred to African languages and African culture, this included the Khoisan people. He asked how seriously Khoisan languages were being treated in South Africa, and whether the DTA regarded these people as “true Africans”. He pointed out that a Khoisan representative in the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders, Northern Cape, had received no remuneration for the past 18 months. Part of the problem seemed to be that the DTA’s strategic objective of empowering Khoisan communities was scheduled so that their full participation in all spheres of government would happen only in 2013/14. However, this raised the question why they were not already accepted.  This was a group that was struggling and needed, like every other community group, to be fully accepted. Khoisan traditional leaders needed to be recognized and empowered. He said that differentiation between Xhosas, Sothos or Zulus, and the Khoisan, was discriminatory.

Ms Tumi Mketi, Deputy Director-General, DTA, said the DTA was currently formulating legislation aimed at recognising Khoisan traditional leadership.  She conceded that this process might have taken too long. However, it had been delayed by in-fighting among various Khoisan factions.  She would follow up on the non-payment of remuneration to the Khoisan representative, and would report back to the Committee.

Dr Masenjana Sibanda, Deputy Director-General, DTA, elaborated further on the government’s legislative plans to accommodate the recognition of the Khoisan people.  In 2003, the Cabinet had decided that the Khoisan issue should be dealt with separately from traditional leadership legislation.  Research over the next four years resulted in a policy submission to Cabinet. In 2009, Cabinet decided that there should be no separate legislation, as the Khoisan were considered to be an integral part of the South African population. Legislation was then drafted to achieve a number of objectives. The first was to consolidate the Traditional Leadership Framework Act of 2003 and the National House of Traditional Leaders Act of 1997 into one unified piece of legislation. Secondly, the policy dealing with the Khoisan people was to be integrated into the new Bill around traditional leadership, so that there would be full recognition of their communities, leaders and authority structures. He reported that the National Traditional Affairs Bill had now been finalised. Khoisan communities in 53 different locations would be consulted for input on the draft.  This Bill was expected to be tabled before Parliament before the end of 2011. The passing of the Bill would ensure that the Khoisan were recognised as an integral part of traditional leadership communities. The Bill then also created a Khoisan Advisory Council, with the same powers as the Commission on Traditional Leadership, which received applications from various communities for recognition of their leadership, and would vet the applications. Once this was completed, the successful applicants would qualify for membership in the provincial and national houses of traditional leaders.

Dr Sibanda said the Municipal Structures Act would be amended to allow for meaningful participation, with voting rights, by traditional leaders in municipal councils. Legislation to provide meaningful benefits for traditional leaders, including kings, was also under consideration.  It was hoped that, by the middle of 2012, the Traditional Affairs Act would be in effect.

Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng), asked how long it would take for the DTA’s 85 vacancies to be filled. He also said he was disappointed that there was no reference in the DCoG plan for job creation projects.

Ms Mketi said the Department had a budget of only R8 million to fill the remaining posts, and National Treasury had been unwilling to allocate additional funds until it had evidence of improved performance. The ability of the DTA to obtain extra funding was limited by the dysfunctionality of the National House of Traditional Leaders, which she described as “embarrassing.” At this stage, there were no dedicated programmes for job creation, but these might be developed later.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) noted that the Traditional Courts Bill had been delayed, and asked what issues these courts would address.

Dr Sibanda said this Bill resided with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, and the role of the DTA was to support the processes towards the promulgation of the Bill, because it wanted traditional leaders to play a meaningful role, particularly in the sphere of restorative justice.

Mr Nzimande said that although the National COGTA had a directorate to deal with vulnerable groups, two-thirds of municipalities did not have an indigent policy.  He asked if there was any policy to include indigent groups in local community structures.

Dr Sebego said the Department had an indigent register, but this needed to be updated.  A system was being devised to identify indigent groups, on a ward-by-ward basis.  At present, the Department was relying to a large extent on assistance from traditional leaders, who had been very helpful.

Mr Matila expressed concern that members of the Committee had not yet received copies of the DTA’s strategic plan. This made it difficult for Members to interact fully on the various issues and challenges. 

Dr Sebego apologised for this situation, and attributed this to a communication problem.

The Chairperson referred to the promotion of monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the Department’s resources were properly employed, and asked whether this would lead to the avoidance of protests.

Dr Sebego said she was pleased to learn that the NCOP would itself be conducting proactive oversight.  The Department had adopted a culture that said it must perform at all times as if the community was watching it, and had deployed representatives to all nine provinces to monitor projects.  Engineers had also been recruited to assist in the oversight process.

The Chairperson asked the Department to give an indication of its broad job-creation strategy.

Dr Sebego said there were three “flagship” projects.  The first was ward-based cooperatives, where young people – particularly in the rural areas – were assisted to form cooperatives, which were then linked to existing community works projects.  For instance, a brick-making project would require protective clothing, which could be sewn by the members of the cooperative.  The second was called “Adopt-a-Municipality”. Although this was not yet off the ground, big business would be asked to assist struggling municipalities. The third project, called “Clean Cities and Towns”, had just taken off in the Eastern Cape, and was aimed at tackling both physical and environmental cleanliness, with the associated carbon credits. Municipalities would also be assisted in recycling refuse.

The Chairperson expressed concern at the Department’s performance in the field of disaster management, particularly in respect of indigent communities who settled in flood plains and were vulnerable to seasonal rainfall.

Dr Sebego conceded that this was a weak aspect of the Department in the past, but the Director General had been mandated to revitalise the disaster management unit.  Much of the focus was on risk management, to anticipate and prevent disasters proactively.  There needed to be close liaison with municipalities so that early warning systems were in place.  She said greater involvement with the community would lead to clearer understanding of the need to avoid building in flood-prone areas.

Mr B Nesi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said he was frustrated to learn that the indigent register was not up to date.  Community development workers had had five years in which to complete the database, and the Department should already have been delivering services, not still collecting data. The communities were becoming increasingly impatient over the lack of delivery. 

Mr Nesi also expressed his concern over the description of the National House of Traditional Leaders as “dysfunctional”, as this would have an effect on their role in the development of legislation.

Ms Mketi said she felt there should be a follow-up meeting with the Committee to discuss the National House of Traditional Leaders situation further.

The Chairperson agreed that there was a need for an urgent meeting between the Committee, the National House of Traditional Leaders and the Department, to clarify and address the concerns.

The meeting was adjourned.

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