Service delivery
Featured image: source OUTA

To increase service delivery in South Africa, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)’s minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, plans to empower dysfunctional municipalities through deploying technical expertise and skills.

Yesterday, Mkhize announced that the District Technical Support Teams have appointed engineers and town planners who will be deployed to municipalities in the nine provinces.

“It is my great pleasure to warmly welcome to CoGTA, our 81 new engineers and town planners,” he said.

Thus far the department has appointed:

  • Nine provincial managers, most of whom are engineers.
  • Thirty-six civil engineers with seven of them being chief engineers,
  • Fourteen electrical engineers,
  • Sixteen town and regional planners.
  • Seven candidate civil engineers, who are experienced engineers who are in the process of completing their professional registration.

“Our technical support programme will run until the end of April 2021,” he added.

OUTA welcomes this plan; however, the NPO is concerned that this does not go to the core of the problems that exist and will therefore not be sustainable.

According to OUTA, local communities, including ratepayers’ associations and local businesses, have been calling for this intervention for a very long time, but their cries fell on deaf ears.

Dr Makhosi Khoza, the executive director at OUTA on local governance matters, said: “There is no doubt that communities are yearning for qualified engineers and town planners to address infrastructural issues relating to water, sewage, electrical sub-stations, maintenance workshops and similar matters.

“However, these are the symptoms of deeper systemic issues within local government and political meddling that have failed the communities in these dysfunctional municipalities.”

Service delivery needs leadership

“We liken these actions to putting a plaster across a gaping wound,” adds Khoza, explaining that the collapse of these municipalities has been due to a number of issues.

These include:

  • Lack of leadership and appointments that are not suitable to drive efficient and stringent administration of municipalities.
  • Poor oversight and lack of transparency that discourages ratepayers, local businesses, and other communities from being involved in the solutions. In fact, most municipal managers and political leadership display an attitude of not caring about the complaints of the ratepayers, who are key to financial viability and sustainability of municipalities.
  • No consequences for the officials who are found wanting or even caught red-handed in corrupt activities.
  • No accountability by provincial and national CoGTA authorities, who by law have a crucial oversight responsibility.

OUTA is also extremely concerned by Minister Mkhize’s comment that they have a blacklist of officials who were instrumental in the maladministration of municipalities.

“The reality is that having a list is one thing, but doing something about it is another,” says Khoza.

Calling on the Minister to make that list public, OUTA said: “We want to see who has been included so that as civil society we might exercise our oversight function.”

“We have examples of Minister Mkhize’s knowledge of these very same people responsible for municipal maladministration, yet he himself has been part of the redeployment of these failed officials to new positions in provincial government departments and some now even hold executive positions in provincial government. Therefore, simply moving a problem to another area within government is tantamount to recycling, feeding and multiplying failure,” says Khoza.

“We have also seen MECs involved in fraudulent activities within provincial and local government, yet not only are they not charged with corruption or dereliction of duty but they remain employed.”

OUTA believes it is time for less talk and an end to knee-jerk reactions to the problems encountered at local municipality level and a move towards more meaningful engagement with ratepayers and other stakeholders, including civil society organisations.

“We are aware of the shortages of skills in critical sectors such as water engineering and our next recruitment drive will seek to correct that shortage,” acknowledged the minister in his speech.

Read the Minister’s full speech below.

Statement by CoGTA Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize in send-off ceremony for newly appointed engineers and town planners to support distressed municipalities