Newly elected chairperson of the SA Local Government Association (Salga) Thami Ntuli has expressed dismay over the government’s failure to disburse emergency funds to KwaZulu-Natal after the recent floods.
He said this had led to protests across various municipalities hardest hit by the floods, which claimed more than 400 lives.
“The protests we saw stem from people realising that the flood damage to water infrastructure is leaving them without water, and yet there is no end in sight,” said Ntuli.
Ntuli and his provincial executive committee addressed media in Musgrave, Durban, on Friday.
He lamented the slow pace at which funding was being disbursed to the affected municipalities, despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a state of disaster for the province.
“We call upon the provincial and national governments to act and avail resources. The tensions and the unrest represent a dire situation in which the province finds itself. Promises are not enough.”
Ntuli said local government was often the first port of call for communities seeking help.
“Municipalities need support and they need it urgently. These delays are unjustifiable.”
The organisation also called for an end to adversarial relations between labour and municipalities which, it said, often hampered service delivery. Ntuli said this was caused by the politicisation of municipal operations.
“This is done deliberately to facilitate the distribution of political factors and patronage. Unfortunately, the many years of increasingly politically-aligned administration have led to an erosion of professionalism.”
This often puts a dampener on local government’s ability to attract and retain skilled professionals, while those who stay in the system become demotivated. The organisation now has a task to reinvent itself in a bid to infuse professionalism, Ntuli said.
He said they would be canvassing councils to set up committees dedicated to dealing with human resources and corporate governance issues.
“Salga will set up similar provincial structures. The buy-in of labour will be of necessity if we are to succeed in depoliticisation.”
Relations were often marred by unrest, resulting in service delivery grinding to a halt.
“We must move towards interest bargaining and a mutual gains approach where all parties end up winners,” he said.
He appealed to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) to support Salga in implementing two critical interventions.
These were equal pay for work of equal value via a job evaluation process and ensuring that every employee who performs well is rewarded via a performance management process.
The organisation also conveyed condolences to the family of uMkhanyakude councillor Mxolisi Buthelezi, who was brutally killed on Thursday morning.
Buthelezi was also the EFF uMkhanyakude regional chairperson.
“Every councillor killed sends a message that it is not safe to be a councillor,” said Ntuli.
He said the organisation was also aware of assassination attempts in Abaqalusi, where DA councillor Swelakhe Shelembe was ambushed while driving in the company of his protectors. The car was riddled with bullet holes.
“Salga condemns these acts and calls upon law enforcement to investigate these cases and make arrests.”
The DA in KwaZulu-Natal condemned the attempted assassination of Shelembe.
The party said in a statement: “While details are still being gathered, it appears that Cllr Shelembe was being transported in his private vehicle by a municipal-assigned protector when unknown gunmen opened fire on his car. It is understood about five bullets penetrated the vehicle.
“Cllr Shelembe has recently been chairing a multiparty ethics committee in the Abaqalusi Municipality into allegations of irregular expenditure by the mayor, deputy mayor and speaker. The findings of the report were due to be tabled in the council in the coming days.”
Ntuli was also concerned that municipalities condemned in terms of section 139 of the constitution and the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) had not improved 2020/2021 auditor-general outcomes stemming from the 2019/2020 findings.
He said of the eight KwaZulu-Natal municipalities under administration, only Msunduzi and uMzinyathi had shown signs of turning over a new leaf.
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