The Hon. Inkosi EM Buthelezi MPL
Inkatha Freedom Party
Madam Speaker; Honourable Premier; and Honourable Colleagues.
As we approach another celebration of Freedom Day, we cannot help but ask whether our democratic system is working as well as we intended it to work when we voted in 1994. Our intention was to secure for South Africa a system in which every voice could be heard and every citizen would be valued.
The IFP understood right from the start that the form of state mattered. It was not just about securing political franchise; the right to vote. It was about enabling and empowering people to influence their own governance, in their own community. The IFP wanted to see people able to design solutions to their own unique challenges, rather than have everyone, everywhere, receive a one-size fits all policy on the day-to-day matters like education, healthcare, policing, agriculture and job creation.
Because of this, the IFP fought tooth and nail for a federal system in South Africa. A system in which governance works from the ground up, placing people’s needs ahead of bureaucracy and freeing community development from political power plays. It was the IFP who fought for provinces at the negotiating table, and it was the IFP that demanded decentralised governance, empowering local municipalities.
Without the IFP’s firm stand, we would not be engaging this budget vote today. There would be no provinces, and no local government. There would be one centre of power, at the top, in the hands of a few. Today, it is surely obvious to us all how dangerous that would have been.
Nevertheless, local governance remains the Cinderella of government. It is the level of governance that receives the least in terms of budget and attention. Except perhaps now, in an election year. This year, on the 3rd of August, communities across South Africa will vote in the 2016 Local Government Elections. The spotlight is unequivocally on municipalities.
There is thus no avoiding the fact that the majority of municipalities are struggling to perform as they ought. Many are under administration and many more face financial and administrative collapse. While we have many dedicated civil servants doing their utmost to keep their municipality functioning, there are far too many corrupt and greedy cadres who are ensuring that maladministration and financial mismanagement continue to plague local government.
South Africa is in a dire economic crisis. We all know this. It is thus understandable that the COGTA budget for 2016/2017 is less than it was in the previous year. The question is, will the department be able to deliver on its core functions with R1.545 billion?
If we knew that every cent of this money would be spent exactly as it has been allocated, we would have confidence. But in this past term of local governance, since 2011, the reports of the Auditor General have highlighted enormous wasteful expenditure. Money disappears. It is wrongly allocated. It is mismanaged and not accounted for. This is what the Department must address.
This is not a standard problem in local governance. It is not something we must just accept. It is something that has come in progressively, as municipalities across this province changed hands from an IFP administration to that of the ANC. The worst cases are undoubtedly those in which the ANC was forced to take on a political partner to wrest municipal leadership from the IFP.
The reason for this decline is simple. It is about core values. At the core of the IFP is integrity and service. Corrupt individuals are not attracted to the IFP, for they recognise that there is no place for them in this party.
With the depth and extent of the problems intrinsic to the ruling party, it is reasonable to question whether any budget allocation would be able to secure the kind of service delivery and good governance the people of this province deserve. Wisdom suggests that we need to change the core values at the heart of local governance. To do that, we must get the right leadership into our municipalities.
We need a leadership that does more than pay lip-service to the traditional structures of community governance. The institution of traditional leadership is not a vehicle to secure political support. It is a valuable partner in the pursuit of social justice, community development, employment generation, social cohesion and participatory governance. The IFP challenges COGTA to raise its game as far as respect for the role of traditional leadership is concerned.
Honourable Speaker; if we stood at this podium and sang the praises of local government in KwaZulu Natal, without being honest about the deep-seated problems that have been brought in since 2004, we would be doing a grave disservice to the people we serve. We would, indeed, be taking them for fools. For they know the problems in their community that their municipality is failing to solve. They know that things are not as they should be.
The IFP supports this budget. But we do so knowing that it is not so much about the amount of money COGTA receives, as it is about getting the right people to administer that money. This year offers an opportunity for our people to restore trust and good administration to local government. Thus we look forward to August 3rd.
I thank you.