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There are still glaring backlogs in service delivery after 18 years of democracy – and apartheid is to blame.
That is according to President Jacob Zuma, who was speaking in Midrand yesterday during a special national conference of the SA Local Government Association (Salga).
In July, Zuma came under fire from critics for his comments that the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, was to blame for the crisis in education in Limpopo.
Although substantial progress had been made in improving service and extending services to people, said Zuma, the reality of apartheid was that large parts of the country had never had any form of local government.
“Municipalities in formerly white only areas have relatively well-developed services and infrastructure to this day, alongside underdeveloped townships and rural areas which were deliberately deprived of resources.
“In addition, the post-apartheid demarcation process left municipalities without access to the required administrative, financial and technical capacity to function efficiently and effectively and this hampered the delivery of services,” Zuma said.
The three spheres of the government had to work harder to improve living conditions in provinces which historically had Bantustans, including KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, North West, Free State and Mpumalanga, which faced serious delivery backlogs, he said.
Progress had, however, been made, with more than 2.5 million houses being built to give shelter to more than 10 million people. Six million households had gained access to clean water since 1994 and electricity had been connected to almost 5 million houses.
In addition, the government was investing more than R800 billion in a major infrastructure programme to build roads, dams, power stations and railway lines and to renovate hospitals and build schools.
The government was shy to boast about its successes and this gave those criticising the government an opportunity to sound as if they were telling the truth, he said.
“All I am calling for is balanced reporting about the progress we have made in this country.”
A recent report by Auditor-General Terence Nombembe found that only 13 out of 343 municipalities achieved clean audits in the financial year 2011/12.
But Zuma said this was not all bad news.
“While the report was cause for concern, we also welcome the fact that six new municipalities have joined the ranks of municipalities with clean audits this year, bringing the total to 13 municipalities.”
However, the report meant the government needed to make training and finding suitably qualified staff a priority, he said. Local government should be guided by the National Development Plan presented to the cabinet last month.
“We now have a national plan which must be the guiding light to our plans, so all of us should be… working towards the same direction,” Zuma said.