MEDIA BRIEFING BY THE MINISTER OF PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, MR FS MUFAMADI, Cape Town, 2 September 2003
Honourable Members of the Press and Media
Between the 23 and 25 July 2003, Cabinet convened its mid-year Lekgotla. The Lekgotla gave Cabinet the opportunity to reflect on the progress that Government and the country have made over the last decade in our efforts to irrevocably redress the inequalities of the past and to improve the quality of life of South Africa's people.
As you will know, the Ministry and Department of Provincial and Local Government, like other Ministries and Departments, performs its distinctive functions within several Cabinet Committee Clusters. These Clusters are a locus of inter-ministerial and inter-departmental co-ordination. At each Lekgotla, these Clusters report to Cabinet on the implementation of Government's Programme of Action.
Today I want to reflect on some of the issues which bear on the mandate of the Ministry and Department of Provincial and Local Government, as they were discussed at the July 2003 Cabinet Lekgotla. Our Ministry's core mandate centres on matters relating to intergovernmental relations and integrated governance as critical preconditions for accelerated service delivery and sustainable development.
Economic Context of Government's Work
It is important that we contextualise the progress we are making in consolidating and stabilising our system of governance by briefly focusing on critical global and domestic economic trends.
South Africa is an integral part of the global economy that is characterised by declining growth, increasing poverty and a widening gap between rich and poor countries. Developing countries are also now receiving a smaller share of global Fixed Domestic Investment. Economic slowdown abroad affects trade and thus has an impact on the growth of our own domestic economy and on policies we adopt. Despite these global trends the South African economy appears to be holding firm and we are continuing to grow at an appreciable rate. This has enabled us to implement a number of public sector-driven programmes aimed at addressing basic services, expanding the social safety net, creating job opportunities and putting the necessary socio-economic infrastructure in place for sustained growth. The net result of this is that we are beginning to see a steady reduction of the gap between the rich and the poor in this country. This trend is largely a function of the provision of a social wage by the state.
Notwithstanding this progress, the level of economic growth in itself has not been sufficiently robust to comprehensively give full effect to the normative objectives of our democratic state, namely to address the legacies of the past and universalise access to basic services. A central challenge, which we continue to confront, is that our economic growth has not sufficiently assisted us to deal with matters of unemployment and job creation.
Consolidating the Gains of Government
The improvement in the collective quality of life of our people is, amongst other things, a product of public sector intervention that has systematically sought to close the gap between the rich and the poor in our country. Central to this initiative is the programme to provide free basic services (such as water and electricity) to poor communities. Since the introduction of the Free Basic Water initiative, government has made good progress in rolling out this programme. As you will have noticed in Minister Kasrils' media briefing yesterday, 6.2 million people now have access to a basic supply of water. The rollout of free basic electricity and energy commenced on 1 July 2003. We are also making steady progress in this area.
Minister Kasrils, Minister Mlambo-Ngcuka and I have been working closely with municipalities and provincial governments to ensure that the provision of services is done in as efficient a manner as possible. Ladies and gentlemen, you would understand that a greater part of the responsibility in this regard will devolve to local government.
Government will intensify its effort to increase the access of the poor to basic services in a number of ways. Our new system of local government is maturing and will need to be better articulated into the integrated system of government. The importance of the local government sphere is that it provides the institutional platform for national and provincial governments to advance and rollout their programmes. There is thus a direct correlation between the coherence and efficiency of our three-spheres system of government and the impact of public sector investments towards the sustainable development of our communities.
It is in this context that the Ministry and Department plan to discharge their constitutionally mandated responsibility of introducing framework legislation on intergovernmental relations. This legislation will provide improved coherence to the relations between the three spheres of government and will create greater predictability, certainty and stability within the intergovernmental system. The legislation will not propose major reforms to the system, but will amongst other things, clarify the roles of key intergovernmental processes and their functional inter-linkages. In effect it will seek to answer the question, "How can the three-spheres of government better plan and work together so as to provide an integrated and expanding delivery of public services?"
Above all, this Bill will seek to stabilise the intergovernmental conditions for consolidating current progress and extending access of basic services to all our people. The draft Bill is currently under discussion within government. It is our intention to introduce this Bill in the current financial year.
The Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP), about which the Minister of Public Works will say more, is a further significant intervention to boost government investment in social infrastructure. It will draw the unemployed into productive work and simultaneously provide workers with much needed skills. Closely linked to this is the recently introduced Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG), which will consolidate currently fragmented capital grants to municipalities. In the 2003/4 financial year the Department of Provincial and Local Government will administer an amount of R47m as part of the MIG programme. The benefit of the EPWP and the MIG is that these measures will assist the country to put in place the infrastructure without which it is impossible to universalise access to basic services. They will also provide economic opportunities and incentives for private investment in public infrastructure.
ISRDP and the URP
We provided the Cabinet Lekgotla with a progress report on the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development and Urban Renewal Programmes. These were introduced in 2001 as programmes to be rolled out over a 10-year period. Cabinet noted that we have thus far traversed one fifth of the distance in the implementation of these programmes. Progress in key areas was noted. This included the identification of and ongoing support for 234 anchor projects in the 21 rural and urban nodes, increasing visibility of political champions and decisive measures taken at a nodal level to provide dedicated institutional capacity to drive and manage the programmes.
The Cabinet Lekgotla appreciated the progress made by the two programmes since 2001. Key decisions were taken with regard to improving national government's capacity to supervise, monitor and facilitate implementation of the two programmes. Of particular importance is the decision to develop a protocol, which will give greater certainty to the financing of nodal projects. It was decided to improve the alignment between existing Provincial Growth and Development Strategies and Integrated Development Plans. This alignment will also have the effect of improving the quality of our work in the nodes. It was agreed that work in this area, which should lead towards improving the alignment of provincial level and municipal level development planning, should be accelerated.
It is also appropriate to indicate at this point that we are concerned about the fires that have broken out in the Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces. They constitute a setback in that they have a debilitating effect on development. The metropolitan municipalities of Ekuruleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg must be congratulated for taking steps to deploy their fire-fighting capacity to the people and government of Mpumalanga. We also want to congratulate the government of KwaZulu-Natal for doing the same for the government and people of the Eastern Cape.
The current preoccupation of our Disaster Management Centre is to coordinate the effort at solving the problem and they will soon be helping us to assess the extent of the damage and to determine appropriate responses thereto. Tomorrow morning I will be visiting some of the affected areas in the Mpumalanga province.
Traditional Leadership and Governance
We are happy to announce that important progress was made in articulating the role to be played by the institution of traditional leadership in our system of governance. We congratulate everybody that participated in the consultation process and indeed government benefited from the insights of all interested parties, including the Coalition of Traditional Leaders and the National and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leadership. In July 2003 Cabinet adopted the White Paper on Traditional Leadership and Governance and subsequently adopted the Bill.
Arrangements have been made to introduce into the parliamentary process the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Bill on 16 September 2003. I will say more on this matter when I address the relevant Portfolio and Select Committees on the day.
Improving Performance Excellence in Provinces and Municipalities
The consolidation of the gains we have made as government will be complemented by specific measures to improve the performance of provinces and municipalities.
In our assessment the performance of provincial government and local government continue to improve. Pockets of excellence are emerging, which in themselves are indicators of an overall improvement in the quality of performance within the system of governance as a whole. For instance, according to the 2001 Census Report, Limpopo Province has achieved a 6.3% economic growth rate. It is against this backdrop that we need to carefully monitor the fruit that will be reaped from the Investor Conference that was held in that province recently. In a separate instance we have noted with appreciation that all 12 departments of the Gauteng Province, as well as the Legislature, were given unqualified audit statements by the Auditor-General.
We congratulate all the colleagues in the Limpopo and Gauteng Provinces who are demonstrating that the goal of an efficiently functioning system of government is indeed achievable.
We intend to continue to work closely with provinces as we did in the past year. The emerging pockets of excellence that I've just spoken about must become the norm rather than the exception.
Earlier this year we launched the Vuna Awards for municipalities. Through this municipal performance excellence awards initiative we seek to encourage constructive competition between municipalities. Between September and November provinces will be issuing their own provincial level awards for municipal excellence. This will culminate in the first national performance excellence awards to be conferred to municipalities on 5 December 2003. The significance of the date is that it is the 3rd anniversary of our new system of local government. Three years is long enough a period for us to be able to pronounce on the state of health of the local government system and to project on probable futures.
We want to conclude by saying that from the point of view of the efforts we've been making to create a vibrant system of government in the country we feel bullish about our prospects.
I thank you.
Issued by Ministry of Provincial and Local Government
2 September 2003