"Khawuleza" must be more than a slogan to fix local Government
A Government plan to turnaround the country’s failing local municipalities must move beyond rhetoric and result in progressive strategies that are clearly defined, measurable and enforceable, says the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).
OUTA Inland Regional Manager for Local Government Michael Holenstein said while OUTA is concerned that no firm detail of the plan has yet to be released, the organisation was encouraged by the concept of the Presidential District Coordination Service Delivery Model, also known as One Plan or Khawuleza (Hurry Up in isiXhosa).
According to the Presidency, this plan will focus on managing urbanisation, growth and development, supporting local economic drivers, accelerating land release and land development, investing in infrastructure for integrated human settlements, economic activity and the provision of basic services and addressing service delivery problems in municipalities.
However, OUTA has noticed that what is being touted as a “new plan” by government is not new at all but is essentially the repackaging of existing legislation such as the Municipal Systems Act and Municipal Structures Act that determines what roles national and provincial departments and local and district municipalities should play with the preparation of Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and other planning documents. Such documents cover all the points listed by the Presidency as areas to be addressed.
If the current legislation was properly enforced, said Holenstein, the duplication of municipal functions performed by both districts and local municipalities will come to the fore.
Holenstein said existing legislation allows for multi-levelled oversight which should stop, or at least minimise, corruption if properly enforced.
“Both the Presidency and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs have touted this plan as a means to fix our broken municipalities by fostering greater integration in planning, budgeting and implementation of programmes. Key to the new vision is making municipalities more transparent. One would hope this would mean that the plan itself would be made public for scrutiny and debate. Without the public understanding what the plan is, the public cannot hold local government to account. If this is not done it is almost certain that this plan will fail to reach its full potential,” said Holenstein.
OUTA is increasingly being asked to intervene in municipalities across the country due to the breakdown of trust between residents and municipal office bearers.
The organisation has found through various in-house studies conducted on a multitude of municipalities, that councils are becoming less transparent and more hostile to public scrutiny.
“It is imperative that any new plan to fix municipalities needs to actively work to rebuild the trust deficit and build confidence. A good starting point would be the removal of compromised political appointments and enforcing consequence management against delinquent city officials. We have seen this done in places such as in eThekwini in recent weeks, however much more needs to be done at many municipalities across the country,” said Holenstein.
He said OUTA, which has amassed a large body of intellectual capacity in local government, would be willing to give constructive input into the Khawuleza plan if given the opportunity.
There are three pilot sites for Khawuleza. They are OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape where the plan was launched in August, eThekwini Metro where the plan will be launched on Friday and then Waterberg District Municipality in Limpopo.