President Cyril Ramaphosa says, as one of the most important custodian of the socio-economic rights of the people, it is critical for local government to be fully functional and accountable to the people it serves.

The President was speaking at the Local Governance conference hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) on Thursday.

“One of the most progressive aspects of our Bill of Rights is that it guarantees not just political and cultural freedoms, but…it also guarantees socio-economic rights. It enjoins the state to achieve the progressive realisation of rights such as healthcare, education, food and water to housing and to social security.

“Local government is one of the most important custodians of the socio-economic rights of the people of South Africa. Efficient and affordable service delivery could mark the difference between leading a life of dignity as promised by our Constitution and the life of squalor, misery and deprivation,” he said.

The President reflected that functional local government has an impact on the quality of life of people.

“When local government works, when basic services such as water, sanitation, education, electrification and healthcare are distributed and provided efficiently and equitably, people’s quality of life is improved, businesses thrive, economies grow and the dignity of our people is assured,” he said.

“When local government delivery fails, the impact is direct and devastating and it immediately has an overarching impact on the lives of our people where they live,” he said.

The President described it as “deeply disturbing” that Auditor General, National Treasury and Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs reports show that the majority of municipalities are “failing”.

Some two thirds of municipalities are in financial distress with only 41 receiving clean audits.

“What this means is that many of our municipalities are unable to deliver basic services and are unable to build and upgrade clinics, hospitals and fix roads. Political contestation and infighting, lack of skills, failure to adhere to legislative prescripts, poor governance, lack of accountability as well as…super corruption are causing instability in our municipalities and are eroding the provision of services to ordinary South Africans.

“This is a crisis. It’s a crisis of enormous proportions. Continuing along the current trajectory is neither viable nor sustainable. It undermines the Constitutional promise of human dignity, it threatens economic growth and investment, it is a threat to our Constitutional order.

“Local government in our country needs a massive review. We also need to ensure that those who are deployed there recommit themselves to the values of our Constitution and those who get involved in malfeasance and corruption are rooted out,” he said.

The President added however, that the District Development Model currently being rolled out in municipalities across the country will bring much needed progress in overcoming these challenges.

“It is through the District Development Model, that we introduced in 2019, through which we aim to integrate and coordinate planning, economic development, service provision at local government level, that we can make progress in dealing with some of the inherent problems in local government.

“This model is about targeted development that takes the needs of local communities into account and makes sure that there is regular engagement and public participation.

“Despite the significant challenges facing local government, the implementation of customised municipal support and improvement programmes by the Department of Cooperative Governance is yielding some positive outcomes. These programmes focus on putting people first, delivering services to the right quality and standard and advancing good governance and sound financial management,” President Ramaphosa said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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