KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Thursday 25th November 2021 – Pietermaritzburg Debate on the Functinality of War-rooms

Dec 1, 2021 | Provincial (KZN/Gauteng), Speeches

By
Hon Mntomuhle B Khawula (MPL – IFP)

Hon. Speaker,
Hon. Members,

The Legislature undertook an oversight visit on the functionality of the war-rooms in the province in October 2020, as a follow-up to the same oversight visit conducted in 2018. I am starting here, Hon. Members, in order to highlight the huge gap that has existed between the initial visit in 2018, by the 5th legislature, and the follow-up visit in 2020 by the 6th legislature. The follow-up visit conducted in October 2020 is only getting its report tabled and debated in November 2021 in the House, 13 months after the visit. Surely, Hon. Speaker, this is not what the Rules of the House have envisaged if this House was intended to play an effective oversight role over the Executive.

In respect of the functionality of the war-rooms, the report tabled points to the following:

  • Zululand District
    • Total number of wards – 90
    • Fully functional – 27
    • Functional – 42
    • Poorly functional – 17
    • Not existing – 4
  • Umkhanyakude District
    • Total number of wards – 71
    • Fully functional – 20
    • Functional – 44
    • Poorly functional – 6
    • Not existing – 1
  • Umgungundlovu District
    • Total number of wards – 88
    • Fully functional – 56
    • Functional – 23
    • Poorly functional – 5
    • Not existing – 4
  • Umzinyathi Ddistrict
    • Total number of wards – 56
    • Fully functional – 15
    • Functional – 23
    • Poorly functional – 4
    • Not existing – 14
  • Amajuba District
    • Total number of wards – 54
    • Fully functional – 15
    • Functional – 28
    • Poorly functional – 9
    • Not existing – 2
  • Uthukela District
    • Total number of wards – 74
    • Fully functional – 56
    • Functional – 14
    • Poorly functional – 4
  • King Cetshwayo District
    • No details of figures in the report for King Cetshwayo District
  • Ilembe District
    • No report
  • Harry Gwala District
    • Total number of wards – 61 (62 war-rooms)
    • Fully functional – 3
    • Functional – 52
    • Poorly functional – 7
  • Ethekwini Metro
    • Total number of wards – 110
    • Fully functional – 69
    • Functional – 24
    • Non functional – 17
  • Ugu District
    • Total number of wards – 85
    • Fully functional – 14
    • Functional – 41
    • Poorly functional – 15
    • Not functional – 15

The total for the province with the exclusion of King Cetshwayo District and Ilembe District is:

  • Total number of wards – 689
  • Fully functional – 260 – 37.7%
  • Functional – 291 – 42.2%
  • Poorly functional – 67 – 9.7%
  • Non existing/not functional – 64 – 9.2%

Hon. Speaker, some of the reasons cited for this poor state of affairs in the functioning of the war-rooms are:

  • Lack of participation or effective participation by government departments, or by some government departments;
  • shortage of tools of trade for the war-rooms to function effectively and maximally;
  • lack of political will leading to lack of political buy-in;
  • problem of war-rooms that exist on paper only, but not practically;
  • politicisation of the war-rooms;
  • gangsterism infestation in some war-rooms;
  • poor security or no security at all in other facilities used as venues for the war-rooms;
  • shared utilisation of meeting venues with other community structures, which leads into cancellation and postponement of meetings;
  • lack of and/or late response by government departments to issues raised by war-rooms;
  • shortage of CCGs and CDWs to be deployed to wards. As a result, some wards do not have this service at all. This is against the background of some wards enjoying the services of more than one CCG or CDW;
  • poor attendance of meetings by some important stakeholders such as Traditional Leaders, Business and NGOs;
  • some dysfunctional LTTs dampening the spirit of the process;
  • inconsistences in the payment levels of CCGs and CDWs by different departments leading to complains by these personnel in the field;

As the IFP, we also would like to provide our own further assessment to the programme and other reasons for lack of functionality thereto. The objectives of Operation Sukuma Sakhe, which led to the establishment of war-rooms, is welcomed. The principle of integrated provision of services by government as also incorporated in the provisions of the newly-launched district development model by government is forward-looking.

The report states that “OSS focusses on encouraging all sectors of society to change their lives, rather than relying solely on government to deliver.” This is in accordance with the IFP principle of ‘self-help and self-reliance’, which kept the erstwhile KwaZulu government in the trajectory of the delivery of services maximally, despite the pressures of low funding from Pretoria. The report further states that “The campaign is aimed at promoting human values, fighting crime, disease and social ills, to ensure moral regeneration.” This too, is in accordance with the values and ideals of the IFP, of federalism, which is power to the lower levels of society, and the IFP values of integrity, solidarity and Ubuntu/Botho.  Whilst pointing out at these similarities, one also needs to point out some challenges that might be causing hindrances to progress.

Government officials are appointed and employed by government in specific departments, with clear job descriptions. In some instances, some responsibilities given to war-rooms overlap into some job responsibilities of government departments and officials. This area of overlapping responsibilities between war-rooms and job descriptions of government officials is an area that the executive must look into. In some instances, war-rooms assume the task of wanting to dictate terms to government officials on areas where government supervisors are supposed to be giving directives. Surely, any government official will be inclined to take orders from their immediate supervisors, instead of bowing to whatever command comes from a community structure. This is another serious area of encroachment that the executive must sort out.

When there is a clash of meetings for an official – between a war-room meeting and a departmental engagement – an official will be much more inclined to prioritise the engagement of the department. This brings us to another important question of the legal standing of the war-room in the operations of government officials in the execution of their daily routines. What is it that government has done, legally, to ensure that the job description of a government official does not lead to that official taking for granted the activities of the war-room, because to him or her, they are just a ‘by the way’ activity.

There is also an issue of war-rooms getting interpreted as unfunded mandates in government circles and thus being treated as such. For example, in many wards, education chooses to appoint one principal to represent all schools of the ward in a war-room, for operational reasons. This causes a variety of operational problems, too. A matter that pertains to a particular learner of a particular school will take ages to get to the responsible desk if the principal of that school is not the one representing other schools in a war-room. In the same vein, to the onlooker, it gets interpreted as if this one principal is the only one who takes the war-room seriously, whereas in actual fact he or she is representing all schools of the ward. But the other very important issue pertaining to the unfunded mandate issue is, who foots the bill for what and for who in the war-rooms operations. Unless there is a dedicated fund that Provincial Treasury can account for, and a dedicated department that can directly account for war-room activities, these challenges will continue to hinder functionality far into the future.

Some war-rooms got seriously embroiled in power struggles between Councillors and their Ward Committee counterparts in the war-rooms. Some Councillors viewed some war-room members as potential ward candidate nominees for the local government elections. As we know that there is always a next election in a democracy, this contestation for power is never going to end in some areas.  The point raised in the report of the politicisation of war-rooms is also a very serious matter. War-rooms need to be cleansed of party politics if they are to function effectively as service delivery mechanisms of government. The principle of inter-governmental relations will be seriously jeopardised in the functioning of war-rooms if they continue to be viewed as a political tool of a political party. At this day and age in government, the electorate has shown us that they will never put their eggs into one basket anymore when it comes to forming governments. Therefore, inter-governmental relations are back on the cards as a very important government mechanism in the delivery of services. Government political heads need to become very conscious once more of the important lines between state and party.

The blurred lines, going forward, that had previously become the order of the day in government, do not have a place anymore if we want government to succeed.

As a collective in the KwaZulu-Natal province, Hon. Speaker, we need to eliminate the challenge of reported problems becoming a recurring decimal in our agenda for this province. A story goes that a monkey went to reap sugar cane from the fields. He thought that he was doing a great job as he kept on opening his arm to, one-by-one, stash more logs of sugar cane under his arm, also one-by-one. Having satisfied himself of his good work and with the load under his arm, he started his journey back home. When he reached home, to his surprise, there was only one sugar cane log under his arm.

Hon. Speaker, we do not wish to find that we have done the same at the end of our term in 2024.

I thank you.

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