Johannesburg Growth and Development Strategy 2040 Conference, 4 October 2011. Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Yunus Carrim
4 Oct 2011
I have been asked to speak on “City Governance Tensions” in the context of the Johannesburg Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) 2040. I am not altogether sure what exactly this topic entails. This suits me, actually. It gives me some latitude. Though I hope, I will be of some relevance.
I think governance, usually, even in the most stable of countries in the most prosperous of times, is about managing tensions that flow from the different needs, interests, and aims of a variety of groups and constituencies. There are also tensions between now and the future; between what’s possible and what’s desirable; between ideas and practice. In addition, there are tensions too between government and governance.
So tensions are an inevitable part of governance. While some tensions can be destructive, others can be very constructive and are necessary for growth and development. It is the nature, scope, and extent of the tensions, and how they are managed, that distinguishes different cases of governance. I will deal only with some aspects of the tensions of city governance in our country and in Johannesburg in particular. Most of the city governance tensions are similar to municipal governance tensions generally, though some take a specific form in metros.
But let me first say how good your GDS 2040 looks on paper. Let me congratulate you even more on the process of consultation you have undertaken on it. I do not exactly know how successful the consultation process has been in practice, but if you achieved a good part, even if not all, you set out to do, you will have done well.
More than in any other area of city governance, it is in the shaping of a long-term development plan that you need the fullest engagement of residents and organised stakeholders. And you have an advantage – in that, whereas you got a poll of just over 40% in the 2006 local government elections, you got a 63,2% poll in this May elections, significantly better than the average, so your GDS has a good foundation on which to draw participation.
It is good that you say in the GDS: “Johannesburg’s greatest assets are its people – resilient, diverse, and cosmopolitan. The citizens of this city offer the greatest potential for change. Implementation of GDS 2040 will only succeed if all citizens are included in the process and feel part of a collective team, focused on a joint vision for a better, sustainable future.” Absolutely!
You say you have a vision of “A city that inspires active citizenry.” In addition, your slogans are "We are all players,” echoing the very successful World Cup Johannesburg hosted last year, and “Joburg. My City – Our Future!” Good!
Again, you say, “The City has a principled commitment to deepening local democracy through effective participation. While the democratic process and active communication supports more effective, targeted delivery of services to citizens, it also grows a more active, engaged citizenry – and a more active, engaged and responsive city government. The City will lead proactively in support of the principles outlined above, forging, and deepening cooperative governance with partners in other spheres of government, finding innovative ways of working in partnerships, managing and overcoming conflict, and engaging honestly with citizens.
GDS 2040 is based on the goal of building individual and community capacity and capabilities, so that the City of Johannesburg can transition to a more sustainable, inclusive future, in which communities and the individuals who live in them hold the potential and the means to imagine and grow their neighbourhoods, their communities, and themselves.”
You also say “to give force to the concept of developmental local government, the City strives to be more activist in its approach to establishing partnerships with citizens and business. This is important for the implementation of large scale change, and changing the development trajectory of the city. Encouraging citizens to become co-producers and co-managers will aid in the establishment of a more just sustainable and equitable Johannesburg.”
You also talk of the need to build social cohesion among the “diverse communities with their different cultures, ways of being and living in the city”, and you say: “Growing our city is, beyond bricks and mortar, also about building a shared sense of belonging. The success of Johannesburg will be directly related to the extent to which all believe they belong – with the promotion of an environment where everyone holds an equal opportunity to contribute, critical for long-term sustainability”.
Such nice words! Such fine ideas! But what of the practice? How much of this will get done? So here’s the first tension then! Between the ideas and the practice. Ensuring the implementation of these ideas about community participation will not be easy, as you well know from your own experiences. There will be many challenges. The first of these is to get councillors and officials to internalise the value of community participation set out in the GDS.
You will also have to constantly develop capacity to ensure effective community participation. You have to have the funds and other resources. You have to contribute to organisations and residents developing their capacities to engage effectively with the GDS. It is quite a technical document. Have you produced a simpler, more user-friendly version? And in any of the indigenous languages?
As much as community participation is crucial, it cannot be romanticised either.
As I have previously said, many communities particularly in informal settlements, as you know, are very fractured. They are highly contested, complex, and multi-layered, with fluctuating leaderships, with different strata or factions constantly competing for hegemony. Exactly how representative of the communities the leaders are and how stable, is not always clear. Identifying needs, priorities and targets in these communities and ensuring participation in implementation of plans, programmes, and projects can be difficult. Allocating resources at times compounds the contestations and fuels further conflicts within these communities. Ensuring effective community participation in these conditions can be very challenging. However, it is even more necessary for that.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) is working on various proposals to strengthen ward committees as part of improving community participation in local government. We are waiting on the ANC’s December 2012 Conference to provide guidelines to government on this. If these proposals are implemented, they will assist municipalities to ensure more effective community participation in development planning and other aspects of their mandate.
However, not just residents need to be more actively involved in city governance. Ordinary councillors also need to. They need to exercise oversight that is more effective over the executive committee. But there is a tension between this and the lack of an effective separation of the legislature and executive arms of the municipality, in the way it is the case in the national and provincial spheres of government.
Johannesburg has relatively better oversight committees, but as you note in the GDS, your oversight committees need more support and capacity to be effective. However, how effective can they be without a more clear separation of the legislative and executive arms of the municipality? There is a systemic issue here that needs to be addressed. Related to this is also the tension that sometimes emerges between the role of Mayor and Speaker of a municipality.
CoGTA is attending to these systemic challenges as part of the review of the local government model as a whole. The other related tensions in governance include that between Ward and Proportional Representation councillors; between part-time and full-time councillors; and between councillors and administrators. These issues are beginning to be addressed, particularly the last, with the passing of the Municipal Systems Amendment Act recently.
City governance also has to address the tensions between the limited powers, functions and resources metros have, and the many responsibilities their residents hold them to account for. Cities in particular, if other municipalities too, are expected by residents to deliver housing, education, health and other services that are the responsibilities of provincial and national government. In addition, where aspects of the housing and transport functions have been devolved to cities, including Johannesburg, the resources and capacity haven’t necessarily been provided. Therefore, here is another tension: between a new function and the lack of the necessary resources and capacity.
Also it is very difficult for cities to govern and plan in the context of slow economic growth, high unemployment, significant poverty, constant in-migration and uncertain climate changes, which are structural issues that are primarily the responsibility of national government to attend to, not the cities. In addition, because people gravitate to the cities from the rural areas, the cities, and Johannesburg in particular, take on a disproportionate burden of the national challenges and face huge stresses on infrastructure and services.
Part, clearly, of city governance tensions would ease if there is greater clarity on the respective powers and functions of the three spheres of government This applies particularly to the overlap of provincial and local government powers and functions, and it’s especially the case with cities like Johannesburg, since you have such large populations, big budgets, and huge responsibilities, and play such a key role in the country’s economy.
As you know, CoGTA does not agree with the “one-size-fits-all” approach, and instead believes that there should be a differentiated approach to municipalities, in terms of which municipalities exercise different powers and functions from a common menu, according to their capacity, spatial characteristics, economic and revenue base, funding and other resources, and other consideration. Even within metros, there might be a case for such differentiation.
And, of course, here in this province, Gauteng, you are speaking of a global city region. We need to discuss this further to see how it will fit into our overall system of government. There are also governance tensions flowing from the crucial importance of the cities in the country’s economic growth and development and the absence of a national urban development policy.
The ANC and the government are attending to these matters. Clearly, there is a need for a more integrated cooperative governance system in which national and provincial government assist cities and other municipalities more effectively.
Metros like Johannesburg establish municipal entities. This has advantages, but can also pose governance tensions, including on such issues as the relationship between councillors and the Boards of entities; between the need for governance cohesion and autonomy; between more developmental imperatives of the councillors and more commercial imperatives of the boards of entities.
There are other city governance tensions that can be raised – but time constraints do not allow for this. Before I part, I draw your attention to the “State of Cities Report 2011”, which has a chapter on city governance which takes up further issues relevant to Johannesburg. Many of you, I am sure, are familiar with them.
I draw your attention to the report’s stress on the need for the cities to be resilient in the context of uncertainties that cities the world over face. The report points to the cities, including Johannesburg, experiencing high levels of community protests, and the need to respond to these more effectively. Interestingly, the report notes that while there are reasonable levels of satisfaction about service delivery in Johannesburg, there is a low level of trust in the local politicians and the municipality. This issue needs to be addressed in the GDS.
The report also deals with the need for Johannesburg and cities generally to respond to climate change more actively. With COP 17 being held in our country soon, you will be able to focus more on how to deal with the governance and other challenges flowing from the tensions between delivering services expeditiously and being sensitive to the environment. That tension, I note, you actively try to address in the GDS.
I must conclude. Therefore, yes, this input has focussed on many city governance tensions. Do not complain. That is what I was asked to do. So there! However, let me end where I started. Not because we politicians often go around in circles! No, no! Well, we often do. However, that is not the point! The point is that tensions are inevitable in city governance, and without some of these tensions, there cannot be progress. We need to draw a distinction between destructive and constructive tensions. Both have to be managed adroitly. Of course, some destructive tensions can be converted into constructive tensions. Many of the constructive tensions cannot be resolved. They need not be. Many of them will persist. Some of them might change in form. But there’ll always be a measure of tension in city governance. What characterises a city’s governance is how well it manages these tensions and how much it grows from them.
As Johannesburg you, more than any other municipality, given your socio-economic, political, and historical significance, have to be up to this task. You certainly have the potential to be. As CoGTA we hope you will fulfil your considerable potential. And as CoGTA we are prepared to help in any way, if we can and you want.
We certainly wish you well!
Cell: 082 87 7389
Issued by: Department of Cooperative Governance
4 Oct 2011
[ Top ]