Midrand — The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) is proving to be very effective in coordinating infrastructure development in all spheres of government, says President Jacob Zuma.
Addressing delegates at the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) two-day special conference in Midrand on Monday, Zuma said government was investing more than R800 billion in a major infrastructure programme to build roads, dams, power stations, railway lines, renovate hospitals and build schools.
"The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission established last year is proving to be very effective in coordinating infrastructure development across the three spheres [of government].
"However, our monitoring has revealed insufficient attention to the maintenance and refurbishment of existing and new infrastructure over the years. As we build new infrastructure, municipalities should also pay attention to the maintenance of existing infrastructure to prevent the water and electricity stoppages and other interruptions which inconvenience and frustrate residents," he said.
Zuma, who also acknowledged the progress made by government so far, said many municipalities in the rural areas were still struggling and lacked capacity as well as resources to fulfill their functions.
He told delegates that a lasting solution would only be found if all structures in society worked together.
The President said poor financial management in local government had also come under the spotlight, following the recent report by the Auditor-General.
"In responding to the AG's report, we need to prioritise training and finding suitably qualified personnel."
"While the report was cause for concern, we also welcome the fact that six new municipalities have joined the ranks of municipalities with clean audits this year, bringing the total to 13 municipalities," he said.
These municipalities were in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
President Zuma also emphasised the need to improve relations and cooperation between the spheres of government.
"We also wish to emphasise that there is a need to improve relations and cooperation between the spheres of government. This requires municipalities to align their plans and budgets with those of provinces and national government," he said.
Delegates shared the President's sentiments when he condemned the failure by some spheres of government to pay municipalities for services rendered, especially water and electricity.
"It is unacceptable for provincial and national government to deprive local government of much-needed revenue in this manner. As national government, we are treating this as a priority through the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. National and provincial departments must lead by example and pay their bills," he said.
Zuma said some of the challenges at a community level arose from poor communication and liaison with residents.
"Where government had said a particular service would be provided, leaders or officials need to return to the people to explain that there would be delays in case of any, and how long the delays would take. We also appeal to our communities to exercise restraint and use peaceful means of bringing their frustrations to the attention of authorities. Freedom of expression is a Constitutional right, but it should be exercised responsibly."
The President reiterated that it was unacceptable to provide services that were demeaning to the people.
"Open toilets, bucket toilets and building houses which have toilets outside only, have no place in a caring democracy which is premised on the promotion of human rights."
"To avoid the recurrence of such challenges, working together, we must ensure that all spheres of government adhere to set minimum standards of decency and basic human rights in the provision of services," he said.