Dlamini Zuma says district model must be implemented urgently
PARLIAMENT - Cooperative Governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Wednesday told MPs the now controversial district development model needed to be implemented urgently, and that government had profiled all 52 districts and metros to this end.
The minister said the Covid-19 pandemic had spurred the wider roll-out of the model to correct social inequalities made more glaring still by the health crisis.
"We cannot afford to run away," she stressed in the parliamentary budget vote on her department's adjusted budget.
Critics of the wholesale application of the model say it will erode the powers of local government through direct intervention by national government in all spheres.
Dlamini Zuma has yet to confirm the authenticity of a leaked document, marked top secret, that advocates using the National Coronavirus Command Council, set up to make decisions on the government's response to the pandemic, as a template for a national council that will direct decision-making in provinces.
But the minister said on Wednesday the model will tackle income, racial and gender inequality through better integration of local government planning, with ministerial involvement.
"This is a fundamental feature of the District Development Model, which we have had to roll-out with urgency since it is a central feature in our response to Covid-19. We need not fear the pandemic, because it also offers us an opportunity to reset our outlook.
"Through our responses we can claw back the possibility of a more equal, sustainable and just society, where leaders are active facilitators in development. To these ends, the president has deployed ministers and deputy ministers as district champions."
The ministers and deputy ministers parachuted into districts will be involved both in planning and implementation, she suggested.
"We have profiled all 52 district and metro spaces, so that we can facilitate for the participation of our people in a decentralised economic system as envisaged by the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The champions will contribute to vertical and horizontal integration of government planning and implementation."
The DA refused to the support the budget.
DA MP Cilliers Brink said it was worrying that while the minister and president Cyril Ramaphosa had yet to say whether the leaked document was an official draft, the OR Tambo municipality told parliament that it had been adopted.
"The district model has jumped straight from pilot phase to implementation phase. It now seems to be the ANC’s flagship local government policy," he said.
"Last week the Eastern Cape government proudly told the portfolio committee [on cooperative governance] that in the OR Tambo Municipality the district model has been 'validated' and 'institutionalised'. Yet some of the worst abuses of Covid relief funds, and outright misgovernment, has happened in OR Tambo."
Brink said the model would be patently unconstitutional if it entailed establishing permanent command councils with executive powers.
"To rebuild local government we don’t need district hubs, command councils, or a new constitutional model. We need to abandon policies and laws that prevent councils from delivering the best possible services to communities," he added.
African News Agency