Noga Kobe is the head of publications in the department of community safety in Limpopo.
Whatever government intends to do for its citizens gets implemented at the local government level. Municipalities are the third sphere of government that are closest to the citizens. Some say municipalities are the coal-face of service delivery. Government’s failure or ability to deliver on its promises is tested and seen in audits at the municipal level.
Delivery of services is expected to move with speed at this level because of its proximity to the communities through the integrated development plans, municipalities do not thumb-suck on which services communities need. The IDPs guide municipalities in terms of how and which services matter most to the communities. So, there is no expectation that municipalities can stray in its delivery of services.
The recent release of municipal audit by the Auditor-General (AG) does not inspire confidence. More than 20 years of democracy one would have expected that by now we have mastered the art of governance and are on an improvement path. Unfortunately, the AG’s report does not give hope that the country’s vision 2030 will be attainable. The road towards 2030 is littered with corruption, maladministration, financial mismanagement as well as political killings emanating from tenders.
The National Development Plan (NDP) cannot easily find its way to implementation if our municipalities do not know what they are doing. We cannot even come close to realising some of the objectives of the NDP if cadre deployment is still the guiding tool towards appointment in key positions. Few years ago Gwede Mantashe, then Secretary-General of the ruling party admitted that the cadre deployment has not yielded positive results and therefore must be abandoned. It appears he was talking to himself.
Key to poor performance at municipalities is lack of governance. And it is not as if officials do not know what needs to be done. They want things to be done in their own way. Tender specifications are altered to accommodate their friends with less capacity against the competent ones. Supply chain management is the centre of the fight for tenders. The Municipal Finance Management Act rules and regulations are ignored so that at the end a close friend or a relative benefit. Now, in the absence of high-ranking officers who are implicated in corruption getting arrested and sent to jail, corruption and maladministration will continue unabated. Take cash-in-transit heists for example. Those carrying out this dangerous undertaking do so knowing they might either die or get arrested. Nevertheless, they do it. So what risk is there for a municipal official who flout supply chain management rules?
Now, whatever the good intentions the NDP has for this country, the current state of many municipalities does not appear to be a vehicle through which the 2030 vision can be realised. Chapter 12 of the NDP talks about building safer communities. Expectedly, police officers must play a critical role in the building process. Really? And what do we say the Statistics South Africa survey tells us that residents have lost confidence in police and as such no longer see the importance of reporting cases. They complain of lengthy investigations and police incompetence. Some even say if South Africa had intelligent police intelligence, we should not be experiencing this high number of cash-in-transit heists. Residents will continue to lose confidence in police when they remember how they turned away the parents of Katlego Joja who was later found dead. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate told us last year that police brutality is worse than in apartheid. And yet the NDP wants us to believe that they will build safer communities.
I am not pessimistic about my beloved country but as for us realising the vision of 2030, forget it. Progressive as the NDP sounds with its intentions, it needs a levelled local government field. The plan cannot find its way down to ordinary citizens if people at Malebogo continue to drink water with animals and we do not see anything wrong with that. Let us shelve the NDP for now and improve on the governance within our municipalities.