Pietermaritzburg - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has made a frank admission about local government in the province, saying local municipalities had failed to live up to the expectation of a high level of service to the province’s citizens.
Zikalala said this when he presented the State of the Province Address before a full sitting of the KZN Legislature on Friday in which he sought to assure the citizens that the provincial government is ready to tackle the challenges facing the province, especially at local level.
He noted the number of service delivery protests that had been witnessed across the province, saying in most cases this reflected the unhappiness over poor service delivery.
"It is true that some KZN municipalities have failed to live up to their mandate,” said Zikalala, who added that the decline in governance and service delivery would not be allowed to continue.
His admission before Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) came just days after Auditor General Kimi Makwetu delivered a damning report on municipalities where he cited a rise in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Part of the plan to make local government work would include hands-on support, meeting with local residents and changing the way councillors conduct themselves.
"We undertake to ensure that we change the manner in which councillors do their work, as representatives elected by the people. Being a public representative means selfless dedication to service, always being approachable and treating all people fairly and equally. They therefore refresh their mandate and remain the true representatives. We want all councillors to emulate them and follow their good example,” said Zikalala.
The premier lamented the regression in the number of audit outcomes from municipalities, and expressed government’s worry especially on the high levels of consumer debt. He said government would conduct an assessment of all 54 municipalities in the province in order to provide appropriate support where needed.
"In the coming months we shall be conducting home visits starting with eThekwini Municipality, Msunduzi and many other affected municipalities to discuss with ordinary members of society all issues related to service delivery," said Zikalala.
The two biggest municipalities have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, including crippling service delivery protests and allegations of fraud and corruption and near collapse of service delivery.
Msunduzi municipality was placed under administration in April and the mayor of eThekwini was recently placed on special leave following charges of fraud involving a multi-million rand tender at the municipality.
He acknowledged that contests for positions at local level were also affecting the performance of municipalities and that some protests were politically fermented and promised that government would deal with such matters decisively.
Zikalala also committed government to work closely with traditional leaders in fighting poverty and bringing development and economic opportunities, especially in rural areas. He admitted that in some instances rural communities were ignored by government and were prone to all forms of crime, including stock theft.
Zikalala’s first state of the province address was characterised by the walk-out of the opposition Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters MPLs who were protesting the presence of former president Jacob Zuma. The former president, Zulu and former premier Willies Mchunu, were among the leading figures that attended the sitting.