Mayors are at the forefront and the centre of inspiring good governance, Xolile George, CEO of the South African Government Association (Salga), said.
The is one of key focus points George and Parks Tau, president of Salga and United Cities and Local Government (UCLG), touched on at the latest business briefings brought by the SABC and The New Age (TNA).
Four mayors also took part in a panel discussion.
The discussion with mayors coincided with the inaugural council of mayors which was held at the same venue last Friday.
Setting the tone for a lively debate Moegsien Williams, The New Age editor-in-chief, emphasised that these breakfast briefings were conceived and designed to provide an additional forum for debate and discussion.
He said that over the years it had provided a unique opportunity for public representatives to speak and engage and debate before a live audience with their messages unfiltered.
Williams said: “The challenges faced by our cities and councils are enormous as they cope with rapid urbanisation, demanded by impatient communities for the provision of infrastructure and basic services, as well as the socio-economic problems we are experiencing as a developing society. These include high levels of unemployment and poverty which make it difficult for residents to pay for service delivery leaving municipalities with massive debt.
“It can be said, as public officials in local government, you bear the brunt of people. But many of the local governments in SA had to be built from scratch on the remnants of apartheid spatial development in cities and towns designed to enforce the separation of our people based on the colour of their skin.”
Touching on the inaugural gathering of the Council of Mayors, Tau said the new constitution of Salga makes provision for the establishment of the council. This platform gives Salga a broad view of the challenges municipalities face and the issues that affect communities.
George said: “Local government is quite a complicated system. You find more executive and legislative powers invested here than anywhere else and all of those require a different focus. It was therefore necessary for Salga to look at the hierarchy of these government structures.
“This requires focused engagement on areas that deal with the domain of that sector as well as on domain legislature and it has became necessary with 270 municipalities, that mayors in particular are at the forefront of leading, that they are at the centre of inspiring good governance.
“Also the complex nature of municipalities requires a greater degree of imagination so it needs positive experience of debt around that experience, sharing and innovation.”
The recent municipal elections has seen new faces enter as mayors and councillors and, according to George, Salga has prepared what it calls a governance constitution framework that looks at the pre-transition, the transition and post-transition.
One of the key areas is that once councillors are elected, it’s the duty of Salga to prepare the new councillors within the first 60 days for understanding the space within which they will be providing leadership.
“We are currently training the new councillors in portfolios where they are deployed,” George said.
Tau, as president of UCLG, said South Africa was doing very well in terms of its local government structures. The issue around whether municipalities were working together for the greater cause or whether we were seeing political battles playing out in municipalities was also raised.
Particular emphasis was placed on recognising that these meetings have been quite robust. Tables have been literally turned over and some of the votings were more about fighting than about servicing the public.
Responding to the contentious issue Tau said: “Robustness comes from democracy. I’m not sure about the tables. It’s the more robust issues that get into the media and less the issues of cooperation and corroboration where you have a council meeting that goes without incident.”
The panel discussion with four mayors was wrapped up by them extending their gratitude to communities for their support and urging residents to continue paying for services.
They raised the issue of getting rid of the corruption that was a stumbling block to service delivery.
Concluding proceedings, the public protector and Salga signed a memorandum of understanding so that some of the pertinent issues and complaints could be speeded up and dealt with.
@MoegsienW: Parks Tau: Council of mayors established to allow for direct contact between mayors to better deal with issues of local govts.
@The_New_Age: Salga CEO, Xolile George: Local goverment is a complicated system. Its different from national and provincial government!
@Tate_Nany: George: Local government is quite a complex institution. It was imperative to have a focused domain on the legislature!
@The_New_Age: George: Mayors are at the forefront of providing leadership and good governance.
@MoegsienW: Xolile George: Local govt is complex. Mayors at forefront, have to inspire good governance. Need to share experiences.
@The_New_Age: George: Issues around energy and renewals are some of the things mayors struggle with.
@phutism: Cllr Parks Tau and President of Salga say the system of local government has evolved in a short space of time.
@The_New_Age: Tau: We need support from the government and legislation and these are issues that are globally recognised!
@Tate_Nany: Tau: We have a responsibility to make sure local government is governed well in SA and also so we stand out internationally!
@The_New_Age: Tau: As mayors, we don’t have the privilege of flying in and out, you are stuck with the problem.
@Tate_Nany: Tau: As a mayor you live with the society and go through their grievances with them and find solutions to those problems!
@The_New_Age: Parks Tau: Many people in the Western cape are grappling with the challenges of climate change!
@The_New_Age: Tau: We have the responsibility to make sure local government is governed well in SA & also that we stand out internationally!
@MoegsienW: Parks Tau: Local govts face new realities like global warming. Example is CT having to deal with drought and fires in Knysna.
@The_New_Age: George: As Salga we prepare the municipalities for the transition. We need to continue to build capacity of municipalities
@The_New_Age: George: In terms of mandate of Salga, every political cycle in five years, we prepare the sector for transition.
@The_New_Age: George: Communities are also justifiably impatient in having to wait for municipalities to make decisions.
@MoegsienW: Parks Tau: At local govt we have an opportunity to create a better world for all our citizens. Globally, we’re faring well.
@Tate_Nany: George: We have integrated counselling programmes for new councillors deployed in different municipalities for the communities.
@The_New_Age: Tau: The robustness comes with democracy, we should encourage situations were we have difficult discussions and engagements.
@The_New_Age: Tau: It is the most robust issues that make it in the news, we need to isolate what the critical things are
@The_New_Age: Tau: As Salga we have to stay above, to stand up on behalf of a city that has a problem with the government.
@Nkhensi_H: Salga president Parks Tau says Salga’s responsibility is to deal with the issues that are faced by any city not take sites
@The_New_Age: simanga: I’ve done away with the mayoral house. Open tender system which is adjudicated to the public not behind closed doors
@Nkhensi_H: Lindiwe: there is a lot of influx of people coming to the city for greener pastures as emalahleni is known for mining
@Nkhensi_H: Lindiwe says local government does not support them hence they are faced with challenges such as infrastructure
@The_New_Age: There’s a large influx of people coming to Emalahleni to work. We have people consuming services in which they are not counted
@Nkhensi_H: Lindiwe says the municipality has introduced new tariffs and people are paying for the services rendered to them.