South Africa: Cosatu Notes President Ramaphosa’s Support for the Municipal Systems Amendment Act

Special Note: Happy 36th Anniversary to COSATU. Formed December 1985

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) notes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assenting to the Municipal Systems Amendment Act. COSATU welcomes its objectives of seeking to tackle rampant corruption and incompetent managers that have become widespread across local government.

Local government is the coal face of service delivery, yet it is in an appalling state. Ten years ago, approximately 10% of municipalities were in financial distress. Today, it is 90% of municipalities. Three dozen municipalities struggle to pay their workers, some for months at a time. Amahlathi Municipality resorted to paying its staff with Pick ‘n Pay vouchers. Clover closed its dairy plants in Lichtenburg and Frankfort leaving hundreds of workers unemployed when their municipalities could no longer be relied upon to provide decent roads, electricity, water and sanitation. Workers and the nation cannot afford for this situation to continue. Decisive action is needed.

The annual reports of the Auditor-General paint a horrific story of corruption, wasteful expenditure, deteriorating service delivery and managers who all too often are not qualified for their positions. It is not only municipal workers who pay the price for this, but workers and their families and communities in general.

COSATU welcomes the various provisions in the Act that seek to ensure that qualified and competent managers with integrity are appointed. Some of these progressive provisions include requiring municipalities to advertise nationally when hiring municipal managers to seek the broadest pool of candidates. The Act gives greater powers to the Minister and MECs for local government to ensure that they are able to hold municipalities to account and that competent managers are appointed.

The Act responds positively to the call of COSATU and its Affiliate, SAMWU, with provisions to prevent the recycling of managers who are dismissed for serious crimes of corruption and fraud, who are later appointed in other municipalities.

COSATU is pleased that Parliament agreed with its position that the call by SALGA to ban all municipal workers from holding office in the political party of their choice would be unconstitutional and a step too far. The narrowing of this restriction solely to Municipal Managers and their Executive Managers is more appropriate as that it is where problems such as the abuse of office have occurred and not with municipal cleaners, refuse collectors and electricians.

Whilst appreciating the progressive intentions of the Act, it will not be able to fulfil its objectives if the law enforcement agencies do not ensure that those implicated in corruption and other serious crimes in local government are brought to justice. Municipalities in rural communities will not be able to fulfil their developmental mandates if they are not adequately resourced. This will require a coherent plan to move from the current unsustainable plethora of municipalities to a well resourced and capacitated District Development Model.

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