The Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs updated the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Select Committee on the undertakings that had been made on 4 May 2016, and described the progress made in four areas. These were the ward-based service delivery dashboard and implementation of ward improvement plans, increasing public participation platforms, implementing regional management support contracts, and providing support to traditional councils.
Members asked if the structures were efficient and achieving their intended purpose. Was the training of traditional leaders going to be done uniformly? How long it would take to review the legislation dealing with ward committees? Referring to community development workers, they said this had started out as a political initiative, but they had remained within the local government structure and were now being governed by the public service administration, so who were they reporting to? They asked why the complaints management system, which was critical for service delivery, had not been mentioned, and why the improvement in systems and processes for infrastructure delivery had not been implemented. Other questions were raised on the turnaround strategy for OR Tambo district municipality, and poor service delivery issues.
The Deputy Minister responded that the location of the community development workers still remained a challenge, and the matter was being taken to the ministerial level in order to harness, harmonise and ensure that their location, accountability and effectiveness was handled from one centre. He said that traditional leaders were treated equally in terms of salaries across the nation. However, it was the provinces that took over and legislated according to their own situations, and this was where problems arose.
Owing to the absence of the Minister of Tourism, Members agreed it would not be appropriate to direct political questions to the Department’s officials, so its presentation should not be delivered.
After the Chairperson had opened the meeting, Members expressed concern that the Minister of Tourism was not present. After discussion, it was agreed that as his presence would be required to respond to political questions, the meeting would deal only with the presentation by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).
Presentation by Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Mr Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), apologised for the absence of the Minister, as he was attending a Cabinet meeting. The Minister had wanted to excuse himself from the Cabinet but could not, as he was acting Minister of Public Service and Administration, as well as the acting Minister of Communications, as both these ministers were out of the country, so he was currently looking after three portfolios.
Mr Bapela said he would be updating the Committee on the undertakings that had been made on 4 May 2016 by the Minister of COGTA before the the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
The first issue was on ward service delivery dashboards and implementing ward improvement plans to improve service delivery. The ward committees report their progress quarterly to the office of the Speaker, which are then consolidated and tabled in councils. The “Back to Basics” dashboard would be used to monitor ward level service plans and also serve as an early warning system to detect good and poor performance.
On increasing public participation platforms, the Local Government Act provides for quarterly feedback meetings by councillors to the public. Ward committees were to be established after the elections and training and workshops were being held for the committees. To date, out of 4 392 ward committees, 4 258 had been established, representing a 98% rate. The department was also reviewing the legislative framework for ward committees to assess its weaknesses and map a way forward. Municipalities were supported through a guiding framework on the development and implementation of ward operational plans. The Integrated Development Plan (IDP) had enabled various municipalities to review and improve their public participation initiatives and to develop some innovative good practice approaches.
The community development workers (CDWs) play an important role in promoting local participation. They are used a tool for delivery in the respective provinces, and continue to be instrumental at ward level on issues such as community mobilisation, household profiling, and assist ward councillors in supporting participatory democracy. Integrated Service Delivery Models have been established in six provinces with the main objective of addressing and providing feedback to communities. They serve as an inclusive support structure that aims at promoting public participation and the involvement of communities in the planning, implementation and monitoring of service. They are related to implementing regional management support contracts.
A specific commitment was that In the forthcoming year, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) would implement regional management support contracts to improve infrastructure delivery, management and operations. This project would assist municipalities to put in place improved management systems and processes for infrastructure delivery and the management of services provision.
On the last issue, of providing support to traditional councils, the Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA) had assessed the functionality of traditional councils in various provinces and subsequently assisted in developing support plans for the affected councils. The Department also continued to support traditional leaders with training programmes to enhance their performance. During the last six months, training done at the provincial level covered visionary leadership, integrated development planning, local economic development planning, financial management, child protection, HIV/Aids and gender, and the rural housing programme.
In addition, the DTA had also developed guidelines on the traditional leaders’ participation in municipal integrated development plan (IDP) processes, in line with the requirements of the Municipal Systems Act, and these had been work shopped in eight provinces.
The objectives of the guidelines were, amongst others, to clarify the role of traditional leadership in the municipalities in terms of the Traditional Leadership Framework Governance Act, 2003, to ensure uniformity in traditional leaders’ involvement in the municipal planning process, to improve relations between traditional leaders and municipalities, and to facilitate traditional councils and community participation in the municipal processes.
It was envisaged that these guidelines would help improve and strengthen relations between traditional leaders and municipal councillors.
Mr S Mthimunye (ANC, Mpumalanga) said that in light of the structures and infrastructure present, the bulk of the problems of service delivery still remained a burden on the local government. These then gravitated towards public protests, which tended to be problematic to the state because they resulted in damage to property. He asked if these structures were being efficient and achieving their intended purpose. What needed to be done to improve the structures to ensure that that they were working better? In a democracy, these structures were supposed to be dealing with all the problems before they even arose. Were they winning or not? He also asked the Deputy Minister what his reading of the community district surveys was.
Dr H Mateme (ANC, Limpopo) asked if there was a programme for educating the citizens, since the burden of illiteracy was still high and they were in a participatory democracy. In the presentation, it had been indicated that they were reviewing the legislation -- how long would it take for the process to be completed? In regard to remuneration, were they part of the Personnel Administration System (PERSAL)? If not, in what category were they, and how were they to be remunerated? Was there a uniform job description for them? Regarding the integrated module, it had been established in six provinces and three remained -- how long would it take to establish the remaining three? Was there an effective monitoring system? How was it done? Was he training programme for traditional leaders going to be conducted uniformly?
Ms T Mokwele (EFF. North West) said that the ward committees were legislated and were a part of the committees and sub-committees within the municipality, and therefore they formed part of the council. That being the case, there was no way a council would operate outside the ward committees for the ward matters. It meant that for each and every claim, ward committees would have to be included. However, according to what she observed, ward committees had been subjected to minor tasks such as filling up pot holes, reporting pipe leaks etc. This was a minute part of the functions the ward committees were supposed to carry out, despite the committees being representative structures within their communities where its members were elected.
Another thing to note was the manner in which the Department handled the ward committees which were not addressing the needs of the people staying in metros -- the elites or the educated, as well as the masses. The committees had been turned into being occupied by unemployed people, who came from certain political parties, driving some ideology but not exactly dealing with the day to day challenges and development issues within the wards. This was the reason why most committees tended to be branches of political parties and they were run in such a way that they did not address the actual issues of the ward. She asked the Deputy Minister if he had a specific way forward of addressing these issues and if that plan would be sustainable in such a way that whoever came in after him would be able to carry on from where he had stopped?
Regarding the community development workers, which had started as a political matter but had then remained within the local government structures and was now being governed by the public service administration, who were they reporting to? What was their job description and how was their performance evaluated? She said it was not correct for public funds to be misused like that, so the Department would have to come up with a plan to address this CDW issue.
There was a huge discrepancy in how the Department and the government were dealing with traditional authorities and traditional leaders. The provinces were a sphere on their own, and they were entitled to develop their own legislation as stipulated by the constitution. However, South Africa was a unitary state, therefore the Department had to see to it that what was happening in Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) was resolved as soon as possible. It could not be correct that one traditional authority could be treated differently and get more benefits than the others. The Department had to ensure there was legislation that protected and treated all of them equally.
She said that last year, when they were looking at capacitating ward committees, emphasis had been placed on the issue of out-of-pocket expenses. This issue was supposed to be legislated and enforced by the municipalities. She therefore wanted to find out if the issue had been regulated.
Ms B Engelbrecht (DA, Gauteng) said that a ward committee was an integral part of a ward and councillors relied on it to make their work efficient and effective. When she was a counsellor, the challenge she personally found was that people who were on the ward committee were being paid, and at that time it was about R1 000 per month. There were 103 wards in Tswane, so the total amount was coming up to just over R1 million per month, or about R12 million per year. The challenge was that people were happily getting money, but were then not making any concerted effort to represent the community, and to help the community in coming up with solutions or to assist the councillors to make service delivery a priority. This presented a huge problem, which was why she wanted to find out on how much progress had been made regarding ward committees. The Municipal Structures Act states that ward committees had to be established, but if the municipalities were not doing this then they were in violation of the act, and if this was the case what was being done to hold such municipalities accountable.
Concerning the delivery dashboards and ward improvement plans, the Deputy Minister had spoken of this in 2016 and in his presentation he had said that these mechanisms would be operational in 2021. The question therefore was why something that was critical for service delivery in the municipality was taking a long time to be implemented. Why was the complaints management system which was critical for service delivery, not mentioned in the presentation? Why were the improvement systems and processes of infrastructure delivery not being implemented?
Ms T Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) was wondering why the presentation did not include anything about budgeting in the planning. She also said that the turnaround strategy for OR Tambo district municipality did not inform her of the current situation on the ground before getting to August, 2019.
Ms G Oliphant (ANC, Northern Cape) said that COGTA had never welcomed the CDWs. When they first came, they were given only an office and a computer. They needed a car and a driver, but they were not given any. CDWs should have been regarded as ward committees, because they also formed the committees.
Mr J Mthethwa (ANC, KZN) started by saying that looking at the current situation, the municipalities depended on the grassroots for funds. This often led to a lot of people revolting because of poor service delivery. since they municipalities did not have enough resources. What plans had been put in place to ensure that the municipalities were not collapsing? What needed to be done to ensure that they were sustainable? Was there a programme that could help them to sustain themselves, especially in the rural areas, so that they were able to identify a problem before it got out of hand?
The Chairperson gave the Deputy Minister an opportunity to respond to the questions, as they were out of time and the other questions could be submitted in writing.
Mr Bapela responded that he was going to allow the officials to answer some of the questions that focused on their area of expertise, and he would come in later to answer the rest.
Mr Ntandazo Vimba, CEO: MISA, suggested that they submit detailed reports to the Committee that would answer the questions that had been asked.
The diagnostic reports were in three phases. The first phase was that of the international support programme, which did the diagnosis for all the districts. The second phase was drafting a turnaround strategy action plan, and then the third phase focused on the recommendations from the findings. The focus at the moment was on implementation, and they would have this information submitted to the Committee, including the budget, which outlined the R900 million that had been set aside for the project.
In terms of monitoring, there were provincial offices in all nine provinces. There was also the head of government responsible for oversight, monitoring and implementation of the programme. Apart from that, there was the steering committee which monitored implementation.
A COGTA spokesperson said that in time they were going to provide all responses to the questions asked. In relation to the responsibility and functions of the municipalities, they had developed an operational plan that compounded everything to do with municipalities. Regarding communication between municipalities and the government, they were working on it.
Ms Mokwele interrupted and asked for a response to the question to do with what happens when a municipality does not appoint or elect ward committees.
He responded by saying that, as already presented, they were working with all established structures and the law was very clear that in order to entrench democracy, ward committees were to be established in all municipalities. However, the issue that had not been mentioned was that there was a court case in relation to opposition to ward committees. This had therefore derailed the establishment of the committees. Once the legalities were dealt with, the municipalities would be assisted in establishing ward committees.
The Deputy Minister said that the location of the CDW`s still remained a challenge and the issue was being taken to the ministerial level in order to harness, harmonise and ensure that their location, accountability and effectiveness was being done from one centre.
On the issue of traditional leaders, they were treated equally in terms of salaries across the nation. The kings were also paid the same salary. However, it was the provinces that took over and legislated according to their own situations, and this was where the problem arose. In terms of salary and resources, they were the same across the nation.
Regarding the training that the traditional leaders and traditional authorities were to undergo, it was mainly in relation to policies, laws, interacting with municipalities etc. It was not a training to do with cultural issues, however, because they were not similar across the nation.
On the issue of land use between the municipalities and the traditional leaders, the municipality system had been established across the nation and the functions of the traditional leaders were undertaken by the municipalities. The National Development Plan provided guidance in resolving the issues. It stated that a public good on any land in South Africa, whether owned by the municipalities, traditional leaders or the state, had to be allowed, but after deliberations. For example, if a road was to pass through, it must be allowed after deliberations. However, private investments were to be handled by the owner.
On the issue of the municipalities not having a source of revenue that was sustainable, there were discussions that were being held to determine what model would be best.
On participatory democracy, the exercise was very expensive, but the focus was not on the money. The goal was to educate all the people and create awareness, resulting in them participating in their own democracy.
The Chairperson thanked the representatives from the Ministry of Tourism for coming, although time was up and they could also not present due to the absence of the Minister of Tourism.
The meeting was adjourned
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