South Africa: Thembi Nkadimeng - Debate On State of the Nation Address

press release

Joint sitting debate on the President's State of the Nation Address (6th Administration)

"A more coherent approach to spatial development"

Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly,

The Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP, and allow me to mention, former Chairperson of SALGA and Executive Mayor of Johannesburg

Your Excellency; President Cyril Ramaphosa,

His Excellency; Deputy President David Mabuza,

Honourable members

Fellow South Africans,

It is my honour and humbling privilege to, on behalf of the collective leadership of organised local government, SALGA, congratulates and welcome the newly-appointed leaders of the sixth Parliament and Administration. SALGA stands proud to associate with leaders, many of whom have been drawn from the local government sphere to serve the people of South Africa.

Your election to the provincial and national spheres of government, is testament to the rich well-springs afforded by local government, to equip public representatives to deliver high-quality leadership and services.

The appointment of public representatives who served and come from the ranks of SALGA and municipalities, augurs well for the realisation of a transformative and developmental provincial and national governments, to meet and improve the social and economic needs of our people.

SALGA is pleased to be associated with yourselves as newly elected public representatives, confident that the collective accumulated experiences and expertise would enable you to deliver on your mandate at provincial and national level.

The interlinked and interdependent challenges faced by South Africa, and which the sixth Administration and Parliament is responsibly tasked to respond to, cannot be underestimated. It is heartening therefore, that the leaders coming from local government and immersed in a developmental agenda, fully understand their seminal role to assist in delivery of the National Development Plan (NDP) and realise socioeconomic rights enshrined in the Constitution's Bill of Rights.

Particular mention and acknowledgment should also go to His Excellency, President Ramaphosa, who appointed a Cabinet that responds to SALGA's publicly advocated call and launched campaign since 2006 for a 50:50 representation across all spheres.

Honourable Speaker & Chairperson of the NCOP, I would fail in my duty, on behalf of the sphere of local government, not to highlight the appointment of one of our own, the SALGA & United Cities and Local Governments President Parks Tau, who has now been appointed as the Deputy Minister of COGTA.

As a result of his dedication and commitment towards influencing the international agenda, Honourable Tau has not only placed South African municipalities on the global map, but this has been extended to all local governments in the world. We sincerely hope that his new responsibilities will allow him to continue with his contribution to transforming local government not only locally but globally.

Madame Speaker, His Excellency, President Ramaphosa started his State of the Nation Address by, amongst others, reflecting on the remarkable progress, made over the past 25 years of democracy, in meeting the basic needs of our people, to reduce poverty and to transform a devastated economy that was built to serve the interests of the few. As local government, we stand firmly behind the President and re-affirm our positions that indeed through working together, we have laid a firm foundation on which we can build a country in which all may know peace and comfort and contentment.

We also agree with His Excellency, President Ramaphosa that our country is confronted by severe challenges. At a local government level, we are faced with the daily reality of the rapid flow of people from rural areas and other parts of the continent into urban centres. One of the biggest challenges remains to transform fragmented, inefficient spatial patterns that was left by centuries of colonialism.

As a country, we suffered from "colonialism of a special type", which created laws that deliberately fragmented our towns and cities to promote segregration.

While we have made remarkable progress in building over 3 million houses for our people, we have unwittingly perpetuated the legacy of the Native Land Act and subsequent Group Areas Act by locating most of these houses far away from centres of opportunity. No municipality or planner would plan for this if it were not for a distorted land market. It is in this context that SALGA welcomes the commitment to provide well located housing and land. We further call upon the President to assist local government to acquire strategically located land that is owned by other spheres of government, State Owned Entities, and private landowners; and, in particular, to unblock bottlenecks associated with inter-State land transfers. Local government strives to be and remains committed to being part of the creation of efficient land administration, management and governance that will become the bedrock of spatial transformation and inclusive economic growth.

Madame Speaker, as local government, we are committed to a collaborative approach to facilitating and advancing spatial transformation and spatial integration in the country. It is imperative, however, to clearly define and agree on the concrete actions that all role players inside and outside of government must play in order to achieve the South Africa that the President alluded to. We need to collectively think of the spatial form that we want and why this is the desired South Africa that we want.

We, furthermore, need to collectively think of the legislative, fiscal and other requirements to achieve this. In conceptualizing this future spatial form and in crafting the actions that need to be taken to achieve this future spatial form, we are reminded that spatial transformation has a number of dimensions that need to be addressed and advanced collectively in order for spatial transformation to be realised. These dimensions include access to and use of land; access to affordable, safe and integrated commuter transport for low income households; access to smart technology, community services and facilities as well as other resources.

Through spatial interventions like special economic zones, developing agriparks, reviving local industrial parks, business centres, township economies, digital hubs and, village enterprises, we will bring economic development to local areas. We will also focus on small and medium enterprises in our cities, towns and rural areas and create market places where they trade their products.

Our approach over the past few years since the adoption of the Integrated Urban Development Framework in 2015, focuses on activating an all of society approach to implement the urban transformation. This, we hope, will help us in realizing our urban vision of: livable, safe and appropriately resourced towns and cities that are spatially integrated, socially and economically inclusive, well governed and globally competitive.

Cross-cutting goals of urban safety, resilience and strengthening urban-rural linkages are critical. In particular, linkages and interdependencies between our urban and rural spaces, are seen to be vitally important in order to ensure a good quality of life in both the urban areas as well as the rural areas. This means that the successful implementation of the Integrated Urban Development Framework is dependent on a coherent, sustainable and comprehensive rural development programme as well.

Madame Speaker, as I draw to a conclusion, we support as mentioned by President Ramaphosa the adoption of a district-based approach to speed up service delivery, ensuring that municipalities are properly supported and adequately resourced.

The 1999 White Paper on Local Government envisaged District governments to play a role of promoting district wide development priorities focusing on infrastructure and planning to an extent depending on capacity, be service authority or perform service provider function and to provide capacity to local municipalities.

In particular we envisage an approach where district municipalities will be prioritizing, for example, roads from gravel to paved roads and innovative solar based public lighting to improve community safety and roads and community street signage to improve directions and visibility in rural settlements.

This requires appropriate funding of district municipalities to perform these functions and we call for adequate funding to be allocated to districts to discharge these obligations. As SALGA we are prepared to develop an implementation programme framework and together with COGTA and other built environment sector departments to guide on how this can be implemented to improve the quality of life of communities in rural wards across the country.

Madame Speaker, I stand before you on behalf of the leadership collective of organised local government and the local government leaders from all our municipalities and pledge our positive response as we embrace the spirit of citizen activism in line with the President's Clarion Call of Thuma Mina.

I thank you.

Issued by: South African Local Government Association

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