Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Durban - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday told representatives of local government to stop producing “grand plans for new projects” when existing infrastructure was lying in disrepair.

Addressing the South African Local Government Agency (Salga) national member’s assembly at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, Ramaphosa called on municipalities to “make use of neglected infrastructure [and] ensure that it is rehabilitated and effectively maintained".

“Not only do municipalities need to create a hospitable environment for greater investment, but they also need to make better use of the resources they have.

"It is far cheaper to invest in infrastructure maintenance than to build new infrastructure, yet we continue to produce grand plans for new projects while so much of what we have is idle or in a state of disrepair,” said Ramaphosa.

He said to be more maintenance orientated would require “budget reprioritisation”.

“It requires a fundamental mind shift among political leaders, managers, engineers and funders who would rather be seen opening a new bridge than repairing the cracks in the old one.”

Municipalities needed to forge partnerships with business, organised labour, civil society and “pay particular attention” to the creation of jobs for the youth, he said.  

Ramaphosa also expressed a need for closer cooperation between municipalities whose economies were tied together through movement of goods and labour by improving transport networks and integrated residential, industrial and commercial developments.

The president called on municipalities to drive innovation from within to improve service delivery and not wait for directives from above, while monitoring global trends in information technology, transport and energy.

He also called on municipalities to create shared hubs to house critical skills.

“In the context of economic scarcity, municipalities need to engineer their systems and processes to use resources more responsibly and more efficiently. The transformation of local government is critically dependent on improving the skills base of local government,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa even alluded to standardising salaries to prevent smaller, often poorer municipalities from losing skills to their richer counterparts such as the metros.

“If local government is to succeed, it needs effective leadership. It needs mayors and councillors that inspire confidence, that are respected in communities, and that have a clear vision.”

He said local government played a critical role in helping the country restore the economy to growth, attract investment and “create jobs on a massive scale”.

“Local government needs leaders within the council and within the administration who are not corrupt, who do not dispense patronage and who will not tolerate the theft or wastage of public resources.

“Those who are corrupt must be removed from their positions and must face the full might of the law. We need to restore the credibility of our public institutions. We need to root out corruption and end state capture,” said Ramaphosa.

About 1200 people are expected to attend the two-day conference, including representatives from national, provincial and local government, traditional leaders and international stakeholders.

African News Agency/ANA