Chairperson, Deputy Ministers, comrades and friends, that we have to work closer with the people and that we have to significantly improve service delivery and the living conditions of the people is glaringly obvious. This discussion, like other such discussions, is most welcome, because it comes out of an NCOP Provincial Week in which members interacted with communities to hear first-hand what ordinary people think, need and want.
Of course, it would be even more valuable if the discussions here were to lead to further concrete programmes of service delivery and development with concrete goals - not just by the executive but by Parliament too, and the NCOP in particular, since it is you who organised Provincial Week. I am very struck by what my comrade here said, that we often say it's easier said than done, but perhaps it's easier done than said. I hope that's true. I hope that it can become true. Ultimately, it's a matter of political will. If the NCOP leads in this regard, I think you will have made an important path for our country.
This is ever more important, it seems to me. It is not enough for Parliament and the executive to reach out to people, listen to them and promise to deliver. We need to act on these commitments, more decisively and faster than ever before. Time is running out fast. Indeed, last year we had the highest number of community protests in this country since 1994, and this despite the respite of the World Cup. Just look at Wesselton and Revelia now. Where next?
There are many different reasons for these protests. For what it's worth, I dealt with some of them in the NCOP budget last year. Clearly, the mobilisation of residents by different factions of the majority party to bolster their demands is part of the explanation. However, these factions will not be able to mobilise people unless people have legitimate grievances in the first place. People are not sheep; certainly not in this country. They weren't when we fought apartheid, and they aren't now when they challenge us. We should not run away from the reality that people are getting impatient with us, and that we have to deliver faster.
The value of your report is not just that it points to the advances we have certainly made since 1994, but in a very temperate, modest and sensible way it also focuses on the many challenges that you are putting before the executive, because ultimately it is we who must implement certain things. As the Ministers and members of the executive have said here today, we are very keen to work with you in doing so. Clearly, too, it's not for the executive alone to deliver. Parliament - the NCOP in particular, as well as the NA - has a crucial role to play in this regard.
As the Department of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, we welcome this provincial report, as do my colleagues and comrades from other sections of the executive, particularly because many of the things that came out of your Provincial Week fit in with Outcome 9, for which we are responsible, which is to ensure an accountable, effective and efficient local government system. Much of what you say - frankly, many of the things that you say you discovered in September last year - also coincides with our Local Government Turnaround Strategy, which evolved from our State of Local Government Report, on which we dwell.
With the local government elections looming, issues of service delivery and development will be starkly in the public domain. We need to mobilise people, as the Chairperson said earlier, to register and vote in these elections. But we also need to mobilise them to play a consistent and active role in local government affairs. After all, we have made it clear, certainly under President Zuma, that the state alone cannot deliver enough.
We need the active participation of the people. We constantly say that together we can do more. We have no choice but to work actively with the people. They must be active in ward committees, school governing bodies, community police forums, health committees and the plethora of community fora, both statutory and nonstatutory, that are available.
This weekend, 5 and 6 March, as we all know, will be the last organised registration drive by the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC. The election date is likely to be promulgated next week, even if it is announced sooner. Once the election date is promulgated, the voters' roll will close. As public representatives, we need to do our utmost to get people to register this weekend, particularly the youth. Even if people feel that they don't want to vote, we must encourage them to register. To register is to give effect to your citizenship. It is to say: "I'm not just a resident of my South Africa, but a citizen." To vote is to give full expression to that citizenship, whichever party or individual you vote for. That is why the IEC logo, "Love your country", is especially apposite, because you are not a full citizen if you don't register, and you are an even fuller citizen if you vote, in my view.
There are people who feel that they don't want to register or vote. This right did not fall from the skies. It was fought for and is the outcome of a titanic struggle against apartheid. Solomon Mahlangu gave his life so that we can vote. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. Hundreds of thousands of people engaged in mass action to secure this right to vote. We owe it to them to register and to vote.
There are people who say that they refuse to register and vote because of poor service delivery by local government or government in general. But that is precisely why they must register and vote, so that they can communicate that they, as part of the voters as a whole, are in charge; that this democracy is based on them; that it is theirs; it is they who decide on the public representatives; and it is to them that the representatives are accountable. How, by not voting, do people improve service delivery and development? Surely all they are doing is allowing others to decide for them who will represent them. If people don't vote, does it not reduce the credibility of their demands on public representatives? It's not as if, if they vote, they cannot also take part in service delivery campaigns and protests. These protests are an important part of a democracy, especially an emerging one like ours with its huge inequalities, provided that the protests are not violent and people are not coerced into taking part in them. Yes, protests are important, but so is voting. Protests are not a substitute for voting; they should be seen as complementary.
But for how long people may be prepared to see them as such depends on us, on politicians and civil servants, and on how fast we improve service delivery and development. There has been significant delivery since 1994, but it's not enough. President Zuma's government is certainly very frank, open and transparent in acknowledging this.
I want to respond to an hon member, I think it was Mr Worth of the DA. He pointed to municipalities that the Minister referred to. Yes, indeed, I don't think that the Minister was claiming that all is hunky-dory. What we seek to say is that with the Local Government Turnaround Strategy we are steadily, slowly - it's not going to happen overnight - addressing those issues. Reneva Fourie in the gallery, others and I have gone to Naledi several times in the last six to nine months and we are due to go there in the next two to three weeks. Working with people like you, Mr Worth, we can also, transcending our differences, address these issues collectively since they affect the country as a whole, as well as citizens, whichever party they come from.
Mr Mokgobi is absolutely right. In order to effect the transition seamlessly, effectively and efficiently from the current five-year term to the next five-year term, we have to work on a transition team. You'll be pleased to know that we are doing exactly that. Only now, an hour before I came here, I met with the director-general, the Minister's political adviser and the chief of staff to prepare a document along those lines, which we will bring before your committee and the committee of the National Assembly that has oversight over us.
I have read your report myself. The advantage of being a later speaker in a long debate is that you are able to read the report. I have browsed through and read substantial sections of it. Let me say that I am struck by various things.
The first one is water. Water keeps coming up as a big issue. I think that this is something that Minister Edna Molewa, we and others will have to work on together. We again in Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs see this repeatedly as an issue. If you think the power and energy challenges are major, what is looming in regard to water is actually going to be far worse. The United Nations says, for what it's worth, that wars in the future will not be over oil; they will be over water. So, water is a big challenge.
The second issue, once again, is that of funds. Municipalities do not have funds, you say. We are acutely aware of that. There is a major intergovernmental fiscal review and we would like to appear before your committee, Mr Mokgobi, to actually present to you what Deputy Minister Nene, Minister Gordhan, my Minister and we, as the two departments, have been doing in addressing that.
What is clear is that if we are serious about service delivery and development being implemented through municipal structures, we have to allocate more money. Equally, municipalities must use the money that they currently have, limited though it is, far more effectively - my comrade agrees - and far more productively than they do, which will increase their case for more support from the national fiscus. It is not just going to flow.
You point out in your report that several municipalities tell you, as we well know, that clearly the residents cannot pay because they don't have the money. One million people or more have been displaced from work over the last 16 to 18 months. Deputy Minister Ntuli will know more about that. We all know job creation; I was very impressed with Mr Mahlangu from Mpumalanga pointing to job creation. Obviously, when you made this provincial visit, this wasn't such a big issue; now it is. I think that job creation is something that the NCOP might want to consider pursuing in the work that you do in the provinces and municipalities.
On capacity issues, we are working with all relevant departments to actually have a national capacity-building programme that works in synergy and is coherent across several departments - Human Settlements, I understand, but more especially Treasury and Water Affairs, and so on.
With regard to infrastructure, we agree with you that this is a long-term plan. As you know, government is investing over R800 billion in that regard. There are some very moving things and one of the municipalities that you visited, Ikhwezi, you referred to as not even having a refuse truck. They use a bakkie. This is not acceptable. Can we do something about it? I see Sehlabi Mashile here. Can you note that? Can we work with the chairperson of the committee and do something about this? It is absurd that they are actually using a bakkie to manage refuse removal. Can we work with your committee, Mr Mokgobi, and settle this matter relatively soon?
We are struck by some very positive things. The intergovernmental relations framework in Gauteng is very good. Why can't it be used in other provinces? I don't think the other provinces - you know more than I do about this - are as advanced at this.
On the issue of the SA Local Government Association, Salga's, participation in Provincial Week, for what it's worth, as a member of the executive, I think that is crucial.
I see that you also went to my own municipality, Msunduzi. Chairperson of the NCOP, I must tell you that the chairperson of your committee did very good work when they had that inquiry into Msunduzi. He may not know that they were on the first pages of The Witness, the community newspapers, The Mercury and, I think, the Daily News the following morning. They were quite shaken.
May I take this opportunity to congratulate you and your committee for the good work that you did. [Applause.] May I also say, though, that your report here does not report the depth and quality of the exchange that there was. It is too bland - there are severe challenges in Msunduzi. However, in fact, there has been steady and stable progress and we expect even more progress.
On page 78, section 2.2(iii) you say that the "process of electing members of the executive committees of municipal councils should be reconsidered". I am not exactly sure what this means and how you want this to be done. But, again, perhaps you can verbally alert us to this; you don't have to write. The point is to just communicate to us what you are saying.
If I understand you correctly, it's a concern of MEC Dube. If that's the case, we are seeking to address this. The Chairperson of the NCOP must accept some complicity. He was in the committee at the time when we shared the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, so he is as guilty as people like me and others who were in the committee at the time. He and I both have a vested interest in correcting our mistakes.
The one thing that is clear is that the law is not very clear! It says that parties are represented in an executive committee that is multiparty in proportion to the number of votes that they secure. If I'm entitled to three as a particular party, I can nominate three people. But the other seven who are a majority can turn down the three that I have nominated and say, "No, you are entitled to three, but not Mr A or B or C. It can maybe be Miss A or Mr Z." It was never intended that the majority should decide for the minority which three representatives they have in the council.
If that is what you are saying, it has been drawn to our attention and is part of the legislative work that we are planning to do after a certain party, whose name I shall not mention, celebrates its 100th anniversary next year and organises a conference in December next year. This time the conference is not going to focus on leadership issues, let me assure you, but on policy issues. We are looking for a mandate. Like in any democracy, government does not stand for election; the party does. The party has to give us guidance on these and other issues and we will address that. We are aware of that issue.
On the issue that my friend from the DA, Van Lingen, has raised about corruption, namely how a person is accused of maladministration or corruption in one municipality and he or she pops up in another, the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act that was before the NA committee is now dealing with that issue. That is going to be prevented. We are going to have a list of people who are accused of this, and the Minister will play some role in monitoring it together with the MECs.
I want to say that what strikes me here - unlike in the NA - is the extent of the much more harmonious exchange between the opposition parties. Many of the things that the opposition parties are saying - with a tinkering here and there because majority parties never want to admit we are failing in some respects - and the substance of what they are saying I don't think most of us will disagree with. What I think is that the opportunity is here for you to work harmoniously together.
It doesn't matter which party you are from. If there is no electricity, all of us have no electricity in a municipality. If, when you open the tap, the water is murky and brown, all of us - to a large extent, although the poor disproportionately - experience that. We have a vested interest that cuts across party-political divides.
You are what you are - the NCOP. You, more than the NA, are the institution of co-operative governance; rare, even unique in this world. We are not a federal state, nor are we a unitary state. We have struck on an innovative, unusual and imaginative system of co-operative governance that draws on the best of a federal system and the best of a unitary system. Your institution, more than any other, symbolises this.
Chairperson, I see that you are reaching out for your stopper. I am disappointed because you said to another Minister or Deputy Minister that you can show some latitude.