President Cyril Ramaphosa says despite the many challenges the country’s municipalities are facing, it is obvious that this local sphere of government has been a key driver of development in South Africa. He was speaking on the first day of the South African Local Government Association’s (Salga) two-day virtual National Members Assembly.

The meeting has also been called to celebrate 20 years of democratic local government.

President Ramaphosa has admitted that many of the country’s municipalities are dysfunctional and face a credibility crisis and this could be evidenced by sporadic service delivery protests across the country.

He notes that these municipalities are mainly crippled by corruption and nepotism among others, insisting that the government cannot allow things to deteriorate to the level of total failure.

“We currently have a situation where many municipalities are ill-equipped to take on the responsibilities expected of them that cannot adequately perform even their basic functions, let alone carry out their developmental role. Coupled with institutional weaknesses like corruption and nepotism, many of our municipalities are facing a crisis of credibility. We cannot allow the widespread governance failures in municipalities to continue. We cannot have municipalities that are so dysfunctional that people feel they must resort to violence to be heard.”

Progress made

But it is not all doom and gloom, the President acknowledges. He says over the past 20 years of a democratic local government, the country’s 257 municipalities managed to change the lives of many for the better.

“It is undeniable that over the past 20 years local government has been a key driver of development in our communities. Our progress has been substantial, and the quality of life of millions of people has been improved. There are schools, libraries and clinics where there once were none. Communities have sanitation and clean drinking water where they were once forced to fend for themselves.”

President Ramaphosa’s keynote address: 

Effective local government

Cooperative Governance Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says to have an effective local government, all spheres of government will have to work together to ensure the provision of services to all communities.

“The real work of establishing effective and efficient local government has started but it requires national commitment to drive as we re-imagine the future. Both spheres of government national and provincial must ensure that we work with the local sphere of government to develop economies at local level and to provide services in an integrated and coordinated manner.”

The two-day meeting which ends on Friday is attended by, among others, Co-operative Governance Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, President of Salga,  Councillor  Thembi Nkadimeng as well as delegates from all municipalities, provincial and national government, international partner organisations including SADC and other sister organisations from the continent among others.