South Africa’s Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Pravin Gordhan says the time has come for national governments to transform local government and decentralise resources to local authorities.
The Minister said for local governments to be effective, they need to be empowered with “constitutional” powers so that they can be empowered to respond to their mandate to deliver basic services.
Addressing the official opening of the political sessions at the 7th Africities Summit on Wednesday, the Minister said the transformation of local government can no longer be delayed.
“The time has come to transform local government in Africa.
“…we need to empower local government to undertake key functions that local government anywhere in the world undertakes.
“Too much centralisation constrains capable municipalities and their ability to plan and deliver in an integrated and sustainable manner. This means giving local governments original institutional powers, he said.
The Minister’s statement comes as decentralisation of resources was high on the agenda at the Summit, with one session having already given a case study on how it has been implemented in the Ivory Coast since 1980.
He said local governments should also be given the financial resources that will enable local authorities to perform their functions adequately.
Gordhan said that as part and parcel of transforming the sector, local governments should also ensure that there is sufficient capacity in local government in the form of skills and capabilities.
He also said governments should also work together and extend collaborative planning and integrated delivery across all spheres of government.
“This can only be achieved if various levels of acknowledgement are granted. We need to plan in a collaborative way. The culture we need today is one of collaboration and one of integrated planning and delivery,” he said.
He said another key element of transformation is that local authorities need to go back to getting the basics right as failing to do so means they are doing a disservice to their citizens.
This, the Minister said, meant that municipalities needed to ensure that there is adequate water, that roads are in a good condition and that economic development at a local level is promoted by municipalities that have a strong political will and good governance. Municipalities should also invest in service delivery and institutional systems to promote social and economic development.
“We must be frank with ourselves, identify our challenges and confront them, but work together both in our own countries and collectively to tackle these challenges with a greater sense of energy,” he said.
Gordhan said local authorities should invest in community engagements, which is often an important and neglected area. It was essential that people remained at the centre of development, and were encouraged to participate in local government matters.
“Involving citizens in the planning and governance process will ensure that local authorities are better placed to understand their needs and implement fitting interventions to their challenges,” Gordhan said.
Partnerships between African cities should be strengthened to ensure that there is sufficient knowledge sharing.