Implications of Telecommunications Amendment Act for Local Government: submission by SALGA

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


13 March 2002

Chairperson: Mr Fenyane (ANC, Northern Province)

Documents handed out:
South African Local Government Association (SALGA) submission on Telecommunications Amendment Act, 2001
Memorandum from Chief Director: Disaster Management in Department of Provincial & Local Government
Memorandum from Director: Legal Services in Department of Provincial & Local Government
[email protected] for these documents]

SALGA's submission highlighted how the Telecommunications Amendment Act of 2001 had negative implications regarding the ability of local government to perform its functions and to sustain its autonomy. It also stated that SALGA was not given sufficient opportunity to input on the legislation. It requested that Sections 29 and 35 (the repeal of National Emergency Telephone Service Act) of the Telecommunications Amendment Act be revoked until the concerns of SALGA have been addressed. Also, Cabinet should consider the entrustment of the administration of the National Emergency Telephone Service Act to the Department of Provincial and Local Government.

The Committee agreed that it needed to invite SALGA, the Departments of Communications and Local Government and the National Council of Provinces to negotiate the way forward on this matter. However the Committee was firm in advising SALGA that despite its human resource constraints, it should be pro-active in dealing with legislation that affects local governance when it is first introduced in Parliament.

Ms Dube and Mr Jordaan represented SALGA.

Ms Dube complained that the main problem with the Act is that it did not align harmoniously with other legislation that affected local government. Moreover the Act posed some logistical problems that made it impossible to deliver the services efficiently. It removed the functional responsibility for emergency communications from local government. She noted those sections of the Act that made it impossible to deliver the telecommunication emergency service effectively (see submission).

Mr Jordaan continued and made the following points:
- the Act made the local government incur the cost of the free emergency telephone service whereas they had no financial capacity to finance the service.
- the Department of Communications and Department of Provincial & Local Government had not consulted SALGA in the process of enacting the amending Bill
- the Act made the Minister of Communications accountable instead of Local Government, which is supposed to look at service delivery at a local level.
- there could not be one central emergency centre because it would not serve small rural municipalities.

The Chairperson explained that the Act was in fact a hybrid Bill focusing on both Schedules 4 and 5 of the Constitution; hence there were some problems. Local government is provided with special grants by national government and should therefore use such grants to fund the emergency service.

Ms Dube said that such grants were not available and that this lack of financial capacity was worst felt by small rural municipalities.

Mr Moosa (ANC, Gauteng) wanted to know where the communication breakdown was between SALGA and the departments. He also asked where the SALGA representatives were when the Act was deliberated on and passed. He even raised doubts if this committee was the right forum to listen to SALGA's complaints.

Mr Jordaan replied that the whole process had excluded SALGA even though they had tried to engage in it. Ms Dube stated that they did not have the human resource capacity to sit through the parliamentary process until a Bill was enacted. It was beyond SALGA's capacity to analyse the impact of much of the legislation that affects local government.

Ms Ntwanambi (ANC, Western Cape) asked if it matters that the emergency centre was in Cape Town and that the emergency number had been changed from 117 to 112.

Ms Dube said that these issues did not matter. However, she qualified her answer by saying that there was need for more than one emergency centre and that the number should operate just as SAPS's 10111 that could be dialled anywhere but responded within the region.

Mr Lever (DP, North West) was adamant that SALGA should be proactive in future and use its constitutional rights to engage itself in legislation that affects local government. He also said that SALGA should try to design a cost effective measure for the free emergency service.

Mr Moosa agreed that SALGA should be proactive in future and insisted that it should have stepped in when the Bill was tabled in Parliament. He suggested that the Committee needed to invite SALGA, the Departments of Communications and Local Government and the National Council of Provinces to negotiate the way forward. Ms Themba and the Chairperson seconded the suggestion.

Ms Dube and Mr Jordaan expressed their appreciation for the Committee's understanding, concern and suggestion.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting by suggesting that SALGA should lobby the private sector for funds to improve its capacity.


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