“This is the time for us to put our people first and the interests of our parties last.”
This is what President Cyril Ramaphosa asked of those who have been elected to various positions of leadership after the 2021 local government elections.
He made the remarks during a question-and-answer session in the National Assembly on Thursday.
ANC MP Sakhumzi Somyo asked Ramaphosa how, given that the elections on November 1 resulted in around 70 hung municipal councils, the government could create an environment that would ensure stability.
Ramaphosa told MPs that the election outcomes showed that SA was a country where people “have expressed their will”.
“This is the will of the people and we must accept it whether we are happy with it or not or whether we like it or not,” he said, adding that such situations happened all over the world.
While the country’s experience of coalition or minority government, at local government level, has not always been favourable, it is essential that we nevertheless make these council work, he said.
“For the sake of the people of our country who reside in these municipalities, we must ensure that these councils provide the services that people need and create an environment conducive to the growth of businesses and the creation of employment.
“Ultimately, this will depend on the political will, commitment and capabilities of the parties and the individuals running these municipalities,” he said.
Ramaphosa committed the national government to supporting all municipalities in ensuring that they fulfil their responsibilities to the people they were elected to serve.
This week Ramaphosa reached out to all the metro mayors to congratulate them on their victory. In many ways, Ramaphosa said his gesture was an attempt to depoliticise that local government sphere.
“In the end our people are just interested in service delivery and if they can get their water, roads, electricity, a clean town and their refuse removed, our people will feel that leaders are doing they can to look after them,” he said.
He said November 1 coincided with the coming into effect of the Municipal Structure Act 3 of 2021.
“The interventions that were introduced through these amendments will go a long way towards addressing many governance challenges that have been experienced by municipalities in our country and to ensure improved and sustained service delivery for all our communities.”
The act strengthened the code of conduct of councillors and makes it mandatory for all municipal councils to establish municipal public accounts offices.
He said: “I intend in the presidency to set up a unit that is just going to be focusing on our work as a nation on local government so that we bring more attention to the work that is being done and how the money is spent because I often get concerned that money gets returned to the fiscus without having been spent by local entities.”
Ramaphosa said he wants all those elected councillors, particularly those in service for the first time, to receive the proper orientation to effectively perform their duties as councillors. Specific roles and responsibilities entrusted to office bearers such as speakers, mayors, executive mayors and whips should be executed “with great commitment”.
“We are confident that these interventions will strengthen governance at local government level, however, the achievement of well-governed stable governments that provide quality services to all residents depends on effective relations between all political parties, stakeholders and the different spheres of government.”
Ramaphosa said he was particularly pleased to have heard many of the metro mayors say they are going to extend to various political parties so that they can work together.
“This is the time for us here at local government where we should put our people first and the interests of our parties last. If this is happens we will have much better service delivery in our local government sphere,” he said.
Ramaphosa said he was prepared to work with the opposition to ensure that there was service delivery.
He told those elected to focus on ensuring that there is service delivery for all.
“The jury is still out, one cannot at this point say one system will work better than another. Let us hope that these coalitions that have been struck will function for the full five years. For me, the worst would be if there are disruptions and instability but I can say from government level, we will not be seeking to disrupt or destabilise local government,” he said.