Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, giving a keynote address during the official opening of the African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum at CSIR in Pretoria. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency(ANA).

DURBAN – The deteriorating state of local government is South Africa’s Achilles heel, according to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“It is common knowledge that the deteriorating state of local government is perhaps our biggest Achilles heel. Whether it is the [Auditor General] reports, the treasury reports or Cogta reports, it is clear that we need to do things differently as the three spheres of government,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

She was delivering the keynote address at the 90th Chartered Institute of Government Finance, Audit and Risk Officers (CIGFARO) conference, held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre, on Monday.

Founded in 1929, CIGFARO is the professional body for finance, audit, risk management, performance management and related professionals in the public sector.

The two-day conference – themed Transformational Leadership in the Public Sector - will play host to mayors, speakers HODs, municipal managers, CFOs, CEOs of public entities and others.

Local governance played a critical and central role as it was the sphere closest to the population, said the minister. It thus had to occupy “place of pride” in government. 

“Essentially, our citizens experience everything government does through that sphere.”

Any successes or failures of government were most likely to be felt at a local government level.

The local sphere also had a developmental role to play, which had to involve communities and community organisations, including cooperatives, she said.  

In order to change the way government approached development, the district development model had been adopted, which necessitated that all spheres of government planned and implemented together at the level of the district, she said.

The model required a developmental local government that would play a central role in representing communities, protecting human rights and meeting basic needs.

Dlamini-Zuma said that by strengthening local government and ensuring horizontal and vertical collaboration across all spheres of governance, the following would be achieved:

- The problem of silos would be solved.

- The distance between citizens and government would be narrowed by strengthening the coordination role and capacities at the district and city levels.

- Integrated services would be delivered while strengthening monitoring, evaluation and impact at district and local levels.

- Inclusive and gender-mainstreamed budgets would be achieved, based on the needs and aspirations of citizens and communities at local level and communities at a local level.

- Resources at the disposal of government would be maximised and aligned.

- The face of rural and urban landscapes would be changed by ensuring complementarity between urban and rural development, with a deliberate emphasis on local economic development.

- Development would be sustainable while accelerating initiates to promote poverty eradication, employment and equality. 

“The model is a practical intergovernmental relations mechanism for all three spheres of governance to work jointly and to plan and act in unison,” said Dlamini-Zuma.  

But, cautioned the minister, any plans and models also needed the “right type” of leadership.

“We require a more visionary leadership, which inspires the confidence of our people at executive and administrative levels. Such a leadership must be ready to work hard and go the extra mile, whilst also motivating the people they work with."

Leaders needed to be prudent with resources, results orientated, transparent, service-oriented, corruption-free and above reproach, said Dlamini-Zuma.

African News Agency (ANA)