6 April 2017

South Africa: Three Spheres of Govt Join Hands to Improve Services

Midrand — The three spheres of the South African government have gathered to improve planning and delivery of services to the citizens, through municipalities.

On Thursday, hundreds of delegates representing national, provincial and local government attended the first day of the 3rd Presidential Local Government Summit 2017, held at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.

Addressing the delegates which included Ministers, Mayors, MECs and Municipal Managers, President Zuma said the second phase of the Back-to-Basics programme needs to tackle both the spatial challenges and the socio-economic transformation requirements facing South Africa.

He said the second phase will focus on a few key interventions, which includes ensuring that government builds programmes to "Manage Municipal Spaces for Radical Social and Economic Transformation".

Other interventions include affirming the centrality of integrated and spatially coherent development planning across sectors and spheres; and strengthening intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder relations in Disaster Risk Reduction.

"This Summit aims to provide strategic direction for the new term of local government. Importantly, from this Summit must emerge a focused action plan on the way in which all three spheres of government and all partners should work together to ensure the deepening of the Back-to-Basics programme.

"The action plan must build on the progress registered since our last summit and should enable us to be even more responsive to the needs and aspirations of local communities than before," said President Zuma.

The objective of the Back to Basics programme, launched in 2014, is to create well-functioning municipalities that serve their communities better. The first phase of the Back-to-Basics programme focused on laying the foundation for a developmental local government, by doing the basics that we just outlined, very properly.

The programme encompasses five pillars:

Putting people first and ensuring effective public participation platforms for them.

Creating conditions for decent living by consistently delivering municipal services to the right quality and standard. This includes planning for and delivery of infrastructure and amenities, maintenance and upkeep.

Good governance, efficient administration and accountability.

Sound financial management and accounting, prudent management of resources.

Sound institutional and administrative capabilities at all levels.

President Zuma says the summit is now an opportune time, at the beginning of the new term of local government, to deliberate about the priorities for the next five years.

He said the second phase of the Back-to-Basics approach must continue to build a functional and developmental local government system that delivers on its Constitutional and legislative mandates within a system of cooperative governance.

Socio-economic transformation

President Zuma said government must also strive to develop an integrated approach where it does not only focus on governance, but also have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the socio-economic problems facing the people.

"We must thus have an in-depth understanding of the differences in the space economies of the various types of our municipalities - the metros, secondary cities, districts and small rural towns.

"For this purpose, we must develop a national differentiated socio-geographic classification based on this understanding. As you are aware, we have decided to focus firmly on radical socio-economic transformation in the remaining term of this government."

He defined radical socio-economic transformation as the fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.

"We need to see radical socio-economic transformation in local government. This requires that apartheid's settlement geography must be confronted and a new and more cohesive society must be born."

He said the management of municipal spaces for Radical Social and Economic Transformation requires municipalities to do a few things, including radically transforming the residential areas by connecting and integrating places of work and human settlements to build an inclusive economy and sustainable human settlements.

"They must work hard to raise the living standards and quality of life of all the people in the municipal area. At the centre of a municipality's social transformation activities must be the provision of social protection to the vulnerable; in particular women and children, the eradication of poverty, and the building of social cohesion and social solidarity."

Government to function more optimally

The Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, also addressed the delegates attending the summit.

He said the department has realised that responsibilities in government are not always sufficiently allocated, and as the department monitor government's plans and reflect on its system of planning, a developmental state recognises where adjustments need to be made.

"Currently, we are working on some adjustments to ensure that we function more optimally. In particular, key functions in the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act are in the process of being re-assigned from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, and some to the Department of Cooperative Government."

The reason for this shift, he said, is to ensure that departments get better coherence between the strategic plans of government and the spatial plans and investment frameworks, as well as better support for land use management activities in municipalities.

'We hope that this will assist with some of the fragmentation in planning responsibilities," said Minister Radebe.

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