At the National Conference of the South African Local Government Association, President Jacob Zuma holds a candle in recognition of those who died in the recent Marikana disaster. 100912. picture: Chris Collingridge 210

Johannesburg - There are still glaring backlogs in service delivery after 18 years of democracy – and apartheid is to blame for that.

That is according to President Jacob Zuma, who was speaking in Midrand on Monday during a special national conference of the SA Local Government Association.

The conference was called mainly to address internal issues and changes to Salga’s constitution.

Although substantial progress has been made in improving service delivery 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 has hampered the delivery of services,” Zuma said.

The three spheres of government had to work harder to improve living conditions in provinces which historically had bantustans, including Eastern Cape, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Free State and Mpumalanga, which faced serious delivery backlogs, he said.

Progress had been made, however, with more than 2.5 million houses being built to give shelter to over 10 million people. Six million households had access to clean water since 1994 and electricity had been connected to almost 5 million houses.

Municipalities had gone a long way towards eradicating the bucket toilet system in formal settlements, Zuma added.

In addition, the government was investing more than R800 billion in a major infrastructure programme to build roads, dams, power stations and railway lines, renovate hospitals and build schools.

Zuma warned that municipalities should be focusing more on the maintenance and refurbishment of existing and new infrastructure.

Speaking on finances in municipalities, the president said poor financial management in local government had come into the spotlight following a recent report by the auditor-general.

“We need to prioritise training and finding suitably qualified personnel – for example, chief financial officers,” he said.

Another important aspect to be addressed was improved communication.

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