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The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) National Members Assembly (NMA). | Celebrating and Reflecting on the 20 Year Journey of Local Government transformation. 3-4 December 2020





Posted: 09 December 2020

Panel discussions from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) National Members Assembly (NMA) on December 3 and 4, 2020, saw representatives of national, provincial and local government, and other key policymakers and practitioners chronicle and reflect on the last twenty years of democratic local government in South Africa. 

Held under the theme, “Celebrating and Reflecting on the 20 Year Journey of Local Government transformation”, participants at the two-day event provided important insights into the events that shaped the establishment of local government through a 20-year lens, and exchanged viewpoints about how this has had an impact on the everyday lives of people and communities. 

Facilitators Eusebius McKaiser and Vuyo Mvoko set the agenda for discussion and debate over the two-days while posing challenging questions to the panellists

Day 1: Thursday 3 December 2020 - Highlights
A session titled, “The Grand Political Debate, The Journey Towards Democratic Local Government: Laying the Foundation”, heard Dr Michael Sutcliffe, former Chairperson of Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) speak about the legacy of urban spatial planning under apartheid and how a democratic dispensation of local governance aimed to address this challenge.

“Our struggle today is still a struggle against racism. The racist system is not just one that occurs at a personal level. It is actually built into the geography of our country...We had a system that consciously underdeveloped black people,” Sutcliffe said.

“What we inherited was a system where black people did not have access to local government.”
Sutcliffe spoke about how the establishment of the first Local Government Negotiating Forum (LGNF) was the first step towards the democratization of local government.

He said that the forum contributed to the enactment of the Local Government Transition Act 209 of 1993, which set out three phases for the establishment of democratic local government in South Africa.
Hon. Lechesa Tsenoli, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) spoke about the circumstances that led to local government reform.

He tracked back to the 1980s during a time of deteriorating conditions in township areas. This he said then became the rallying points for mass mobilization with violent protests, widespread rent and consumer boycotts against the distorted system of apartheid local government.

“The beginning of the 80s saw the introduction of legislation, some of which might have already been referred to. The emergence of the united democratic front was part of the opposition to those systems. We were engaged in fighting the discriminatory practices,” he said.

A panel discussion reflecting on the first term of Democratic Local Government: 2000 - 2006, saw Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, the first Executive Mayor of City of Tshwane and Chairperson of SALGA emphasise¬† that local government is a cornerstone in the structure of a democratic political system. 
“Local government should be the engine through which we deliver a better life for all. A better life is more than just water, electricity, sanitation, all those issues are very important. But it's much more than that,” he said.

Andrew Boraine, former City Manager of City of Cape Town, spoke about what local authorities need to do to connect rural and urban areas, for the benefit of communities.
He said that this could be done through integrated governance and territorial planning, based on broad partnerships and innovative tools. 

“Connecting urban and rural development together and the social compact. The ability of municipalities to work more closely with their citizens. Cities are important spaces for integration and inclusion,” said Boraine.

Dr Brigalia Bam, former chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) identified a number of factors that inhibit professionalisation in local government and stressed the importance of a sector-wide culture of ethics and values. 

“The challenge of accountability generally and the second one has to do with a new emphasis in our way of working on professionalism,” Dr Bam said.

“As a new nation, we need to be courageous enough to establish, strengthen relationships between communities and where our leaders are operating with civil society.” 

In another panel discussion that examined the second term of democratic local government between 2006 - 2011, Hon. Dickson Masemola, former Executive Mayor of Sekhukhune District Municipality and current MEC for Public Works, lauded SALGA on the impact it has made on national, continent-wide and global local governance.

He said that this was evidenced by Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa having been elected as the first President of the UCLGA (2005-2008) as well as SALGA President, Cllr. Thembi Nadimeng’s recent election as the chairperson of the Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network (ComWLG), a network of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) that aims to promote gender equality and greater representation of women in Local Government.

“SALGA should take cognisance of the fact that it is not only a home based organisation, it has also played a major role on the continent. UCLGA, where Father Mkhatshwa became president. As SALGA, we made a positive impact continentally as well as internationally,” said Masemola “You still have the current president of SALGA has been appointed to lead a structure of the commonwealth local government forum.”

Sy Mamabolo, Chief Electoral Officer of the Electoral Commission spoke about the trends of voter turnouts during elections and what they could mean for next year’s local government elections. 
He said local government stakeholders had an important role to play in determining how many citizens showed up at the polls on election day.
“We are going into an election next year. I think it will be a good thing for local government to be in a position to increase the participation rate... It will confirm local government as a space in which people can be politically engaged. It is our ambition as a commission to be able to make that improvement,” he said.

Day 2: Friday 4 December 2020 - Highlights
The second and final day of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) National Members Assembly (NMA) kicked-off with reflections being made on the organizations impact on the content and global local government sector.

Dr Greg Munro, Secretary General of Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) said of this: “SALGA has always been an active and supportive member of the organization (CLGF) in the early days and has ensured that there was a voice for local government across the commonwealth.”

“More recently, it has demonstrated local government’s role as an actor in development and has been at the heart of coordinated efforts of local government, working with together on global platforms such as the Global Task Force, UCLG and CLGF to drive a shared agenda of ensuring that local government’s role in global development policies are clearly demonstrated,” said Dr Munro.

Proceedings then focused on a panel discussion that reviewed the third and fourth term of democratic local government: 2011-2016 and 2016-2021.

Addressing the issue of increased allegations of maladministration and mal-practice in municipalities and the increase in service delivery protests and their impact on governance, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Prof Steven Friedman said: “We must ensure that the citizens and the local level have the information they need, the access they need, and the protection they need to ensure they can gain a voice in local government.”

Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, a former SALGA former Deputy President pointed out that a healthy municipal value chain was one where municipalities provide services to consumers and in turn, consumers pay for services rendered.

She pointed out that if the users can pay for their debts and cellphone accounts, it was their responsibility to pay for municipal services as well.

Prof Thuli Madonsela, former Public Protector shed light on what was meant by the adage of local government being the closest sphere of government to the community.

“The truth is it's the most important. It is the integrator. It is the only place where Gogo Dlamini can see the link between her day to day life and the promises in the constitution, which are to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic government, social justice,” she said.

Political parties, in a session titled, “Opportunities to influence the Political Party Manifestos towards 2021 Local Government Elections”, were also given a platform at the NMA to lend their voice to events that shaped the country’s local government landscape.

Representing the African National Congress (ANC), Hon. Phumulo Masualle shared the party’s thinking towards the 2021 local government elections.

“It’s becoming very evident that we should disabuse ourselves of this thinking that the local sphere of government is the last boat to accommodate those who have not made it in either the national or provincial sphere of government,” Masualle said.

“We’ve got to earnestly and seriously look to the best we have to be able to assign responsibility in the local sphere of government.”

Representing the Democratic Alliance (DA), Hon. Gizella Opperman said: “We need to relook the kind of leadership that we put up on the polls. We need ethical leaders who are competent and who can follow-through with implementation of sound strategies to turn local government around. We need leaders who their interests last and their party’s interests last and put the interest of the communities before their parties.”

SALGA National Members Assembly declaration.
In the assembly declaration, the NMA declared to make the fight against violence and abuse of women and children a daily fight and lead the fight against HIV/Aids through the implementation of the UNAIDS endorsed 90-90-90 Campaign.

Furthermore, it noted the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on municipalities, in particular, and the country, the Southern African region, the African continent and global community at large and call for a more coordinated response informed by meaningful consultation, particularly with organized local government as the collective voice of municipalities, on matters that materially impact municipalities.
The assembly also noted the game-changer in the name of the District Development Model (DDM).

"We hope the intervention will achieve its objectives to improve the coherence and impact of government service delivery with a strong focus on 44 Districts and 8 Metros around the country as development spaces that can be used as centres of service delivery and economic development, including job creation,” reads the Declaration.

The assembly resolved to re-double local government efforts to reconnect and work with citizens and groups within the community to find sustainable ways to meet their social, economic and material needs and improve their quality of life; lobby for the amendment of legislation as an enabler for advancing the separation of powers which will result in a clear separation between the executive and legislative arms in municipalities; resolve the rural vs urban dichotomy with particular focus on fiscal allocations, including increasing the infrastructure grant allocations for the development of rural areas to mitigate against migration
The NMA Declaration can be found here:

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