28 Sep 2022
Keynote address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Local Government Summit 2022, Birchwood Conference Centre, Ekurhuleni
Programme Director, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Ms Thembi Nkadimeng,
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura,
Other Premiers present,
President of the South African Local Government Association, Cllr Bheke Stofile,
Kings and Queens,
Members of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders,
Executive Mayors, Councillors and municipal officials,
Representatives of SALGA,
Members of civil society, NGOs and community organisations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here at a Local Government Summit that is focused on practical solutions to the challenges our municipalities face.
This has been a year of heightened activity by the state around the critical issue of improving the state of local government.
This year, I have led four Presidential Izimbizo, in the Free State, North West, Gauteng and Mpumalanga,where local governance issues topped the agenda.
In August, the South African Human Rights Commission convened a conference on accountability, service delivery and human rights in local government.
And most recently, SALGA convened this year’s Council of Mayors.
What I said at all of these engagements is that we do not need more diagnosis on the state of local government, because we know what our challenges are.
Reports from the Auditor-General and National Treasuryand the State of Local Government reports point to inefficiencies, maladministration, lack of financial controls, poor governance and the like.
It is therefore appropriate that these are some of the critical challenges that this Summit is discussing.
The Commissions here will be looking at issues of governance, administration and financial management,service delivery, climate change and disasters, and, importantly, local economic development.
As the country grapples with poverty, unemployment and inequality, it is vital that we attend to local economic development.
When there is a growing, dynamic economy we have the fiscal space to expand the provision of services that improve our people’s lives.
When there is more investment and business expansion, jobs are created, livelihoods are supported, and the benefits circulate in local area.
That is why accelerating economic growth, attracting investment and creating jobs must be at the centre of the efforts of all spheres of government.
Two weeks ago, I was part of an investment oversight visit to KwaZulu-Natal.
We attended the launches of two expansion projects by automotive component manufacturer Hesto Harnesses and paper products company Sappi.
Both of these were the fulfillment of commitments made at one of our South Africa Investment Conferences.
These investments are supporting job creation, enterprise development and localisation, and will inject millions of rands into local economies.
Over the past two months I have attended similar such launches by the Ford Motor Company, Isuzu, Anglo American, Corobrik, Sandvik, Netflix, Consol Glass and many other companies.
These business expansion projects aren’t happening opposite the Union Buildings or next to Parliament.
They are being built in our towns and our metros, where our people live and where they are needed most.
If we are to harness the momentum of economic recovery that these new investments signal, local government has to be strong, efficient, capable and well-run.
When these domestic investors and multinationals are making decisions on where to bring or expand their investments, one of the first factors they consider is whether there is an enabling environment in that locality.
They look at whether they can receive the necessary approvals and permits on time.
They look at the quality of the provision of water, electricity, sewage and refuse removal.
They look at the quality of the roads and at the quality of the infrastructure they will need to transport products to market.
They analyse whether the environment is safe and secure, and whether they will be able to protect their investments.
If they are not satisfied that their needs will be met, they choose to invest somewhere else.
In some cases, companies that are already operating in an area choose to leave.
In the process jobs are lost, businesses are forced to close, suppliers lose their clients and the local economy suffers.
As we work to promote local economic development, we need to consider the role of the District Development Model.
We need to ensure that this integrated, multidisciplinary approach to government planning and implementation must translate into local economic development that changes lives at a household level.
We need to ensure that mayors and councillors are deeply involved in the promotion of local economic development.
We should not leave it to consultants to devise our economic development plans and expect that they will be implemented on their own.
Mayors and councillors need to drive the process from start to finish.
We have spoken about some of the key elements of an ideal municipality, including a vibrant economy, places where tourists want to visit, inter-connected communities and skills and training hubs.
Such municipalities provide good access to health, education and recreational facilities.
In such an ideal municipality not only are residents able to lead lives of quality and dignity, they are magnets for investment.
The task before us at this point is to translate the DDM One Plans into reality.
A credible plan is only as good as its implementation.
And even the best plan will not succeed if we do not fix the systemic problems that prevent local government from carrying out its functions.
As I told the SALGA Council of Mayors earlier this month, we have to embark on course correction to advance the principle of people-centered local government.
This means focused and committed leadership across all municipalities, with stronger strategic relations with the private sector and other social partners.
It means improving the quality and efficiency of local government through better funding, planning and execution.
It is about restoring governance, about professionalising municipal administrations and stabilising management and political leadership.
It means prioritising fiscal sustainability, sound municipal financial governance and eliminating corruption.
Municipalities need to focus on the imperative of revenue collection, to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to fulfil their functions.
In addition to the jobs it creates and the communitydevelopment it enables, vibrant local economic activity strengthens the financial position of municipalities.
It makes these municipalities less dependent on grants from the national fiscus and empowers them to pursue the interests of residents with greater focus.
But if we are to build these ideal municipalities, we need to address the instability within governance structures and processes.
The political contestation and infighting that is wreaking havoc in our municipalities must come to an end.
We should once and for all end the hijacking of municipal councils and administrations for self-enrichment and personal gain.
Local government should employ people that are able to perform the functions they are responsible for and should carry them out in an accountable, transparent, efficient, effective and responsive manner.
In carrying out this mandate, municipalities must receive the requisite support of all other spheres of government, public entities and state institutions.
This conference is taking place as COGTA is undertaking a 21-year review of local government.
This review will assist government to learn from the lessons of the past, both in terms of best practice and failures.
As we meet to discuss ways to improve governance and administration and solve our service delivery challenges, we must focus on solutions.
After more than two decades of democratic local government and nearly three decades of constitutional democracy, the focus must be more on outcomes and less on intent.
We must bridge the divide between policy and implementation, between aspiration and results, by focusing on what must be done.
Let this be an opportunity for all of us tasked with the business of local government to emerge from this conference with tangible actions and achievable aims.
Let this be an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to improving the living conditions of the people of South Africa through developmental local government.
I thank you.