The Constitution offers a clear recipe for success in the form of guidelines for local government, which are dependent on striking a balance between community needs and available resources. It stipulates the core functions of municipalities, the use of resources, environmental conservation and responsibilities towards the public.
In practice, however, local government is a total flop. Municipalities are bankrupt, owing creditors billions of rand, basic services, like water supply and garbage disposal, are not rendered and municipalities themselves are polluting scarce water sources.
The true cause of all this is not a lack of funds or Apartheid. It is mismanagement and corruption; the eight-megalitre sewage plant in the Naledi Municipality serves as a shining example. Thus far, the plant already costs R120 million and it still has not been completed, so more money is needed. In addition, the plant has not been worked on in eighteen months – all because of inflated costs and poor planning.
Municipalities must focus on maintaining existing infrastructure instead of launching new projects, which offer a short cut to corruption.
There is a serious lack of routine maintenance and infrastructure is not adequately protected against vandalism, theft and destruction. In Matlosana, the copper cables at all the sport stadiums have been stolen and the buildings have been damaged beyond repair due to arson.
Communities are looted and carried off piece by piece. Waterpipes and valves are stolen, causing leakages and needless wastage. Gangs intimidate and even murder municipal workers – due to, in many cases, ANC faction fights. This happens at the expense of paying residents who do not get service delivery. This is all for the power to be first in line to commit corruption.
Local government has degenerated into crisis control, despite the fact that it is much easier and cheaper to maintain a waterpipe than to fix it once it has burst. Laws and regulations are disregarded and this creates a government without any accountability.
There are proper legislation and regulations in place to govern general and financial municipal management, but to no avail. Municipalities’ own bylaws carry less and less weight.
Making appointments on merit and abolishing Affirmative Action (AA) and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) will contribute greatly to remedying the situation as it will effectively counteract cadre deployment and corruption. This also applies to the use of contractors. At present, service delivery is no more than a political ploy.
Most municipalities have proposed an increase of nearly 20% for power tariffs. Consumers will not be able to afford it and municipalities’ revenue will keep shrinking as unemployment grows.
The logical remedy for this is to stimulate growth by means of incentives in rates and taxes. This is indeed possible if corruption is eradicated.
Unfortunately, not even the best solution will work as long as a corruption-riddled ANC is in power. The only ray of hope for our failing municipalities is the 27th of October this year. Voters will have the opportunity to stand up, stand together and stand strong to get rid of the ANC government.