What can we deduce from the State of the Nation address as far as local government is concerned, asks Lungile Penxa
The key theme of the State of the Nation Address was that Stakeholder Collaboration is necessary to take the country forward. The President invited us all to contribute in improving the socio-economic state of the country. As a result, he recognised the need to work with civil society which he regarded as playing a critical role in tackling poverty, inequality and related social problems.
He proposed a Social Sector Summit sometime this year, which would seek improve the interface between the state and civil society and address the challenges that NGOs and CBOs face. In the interest of improved service delivery and good governance, President Ramaphosa committed to the follow initiatives which are beneficial at the local government level:
The need to improve customer service in government: President Ramaphosa indicated that people still face challenges when interacting with public servants. “In too many cases, they often get poor service or no service at all. We want our public servants to adhere to the principle of Batho Pele, of putting our people first. We are determined that everyone in public service should undertake their responsibilities with efficiency, diligence and integrity. We want to instil a new discipline, to do things correctly, to do them completely and to do them timeously. We call on all public servants to become agents for change” – President Cyril Ramaphosa. He committed to find time to meet with provincial and local government leaders to ensure that government responds to the pressing needs of our people.
Review of size and number of Government Departments: This process has begun at local government level through the amalgamation of municipalities. Those that were amalgamated are still in the stabilisation phase. Interestingly, the review President Ramaphosa proposed is needed for municipalities especially in cases where a municipality has a large number of staff, but it is still unproductive.
The Drought situation in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape has been elevated to a National State of Disaster. President Ramaphosa stated that national government is now managing and coordinating the national response with support from all provinces. He further assured that integrated measures will be provided to support the provinces that are hardest hit. We are eagerly waiting to see how that will unfold and whether our municipalities will be successful in executing the plan developed by national government.
The President committed that there will be Jobs Summit within the next few months to align the efforts of every sector and every stakeholder behind the imperative of job creation. This is an important platform especially for a country, whose unemployment rate stands at 26.7 % and for the Eastern Cape Province whose unemployment rate was 32,2% in the first quarter of 2017 (as shown by Statistics SA: http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=9960).
The President further said that “Young South Africans will be moved to the centre of our economic agenda.” He highlighted the following initiatives as part of the Youth Agenda:
- The Youth Employment Service initiative to be launched next month and it will place unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the economy.
- The Youth Working Group that is representative of all young South Africans to ensure that our policies and programmes advance their interests.
- The introduction of a Youth Crime Prevention Strategy will empower and support young people to be self-sufficient and become involved in crime fighting initiatives.
In the efforts to combat crime, the key focus this year will be the Distribution of Resources to Police Station level. Additionally, Community Policing Strategy will be implemented, with the aim of gaining the trust of the community and to secure their full involvement in the fight against crime. This will be a useful strategy that improve the partnership and work of the Community Police Forums and the South African Police Service.
President Ramaphosa also indicated that on the 1st of May 2018, government is officially introducing the first national minimum wage in South Africa. The introduction of a national minimum wage was made possible by the determination of all social partners to reduce wage inequality while maintaining economic growth and employment creation. This will be beneficial to low-income earners but can also be a job threat to their current jobs especially if some employers are unable to pay their salaries in line with the national minimum wage standards.
The State of the National Address (SONA) revealed that the growth the South African economy will be sustained by small businesses. This includes efforts to invest in the development of businesses in townships and rural areas. President Ramaphosa assured us that government will work with our social partners to build a small business support ecosystem that assists, nourishes and promotes entrepreneurs.
“Government will honour its undertaking to set aside at least 30 percent of public procurement to SMMEs, cooperatives and township and rural enterprises. Government is finalising a small business and innovation fund targeted at start-ups. We will reduce the regulatory barriers for small businesses” – President Ramaphosa, SONA 2018
As part of efforts to provide opportunities to the vulnerable groups in our South African community, President Ramaphosa revealed that government is working to expand economic opportunities for people with disabilities through the Small Enterprise Finance Agency – SEFA – has launched a scheme to develop and fund entrepreneurs with disabilities called the Amavulandlela Funding Scheme. We hope that the Department of Small Business Development will collaborate with the country’s municipalities to ensure that deserving citizens benefit within municipal boundaries.
President Ramaphosa indicated that his government will “accelerate land redistribution programme not only to redress a grave historical injustice, but also to bring more producers into the agricultural sector and to make more land available for cultivation expropriation without compensation should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensure that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.” This will require municipalities to work hand in hand with the Department of Agriculture and to also fast track land audits within municipal boundaries, so that land for agricultural purposes can be made available.
Residents within the local government sphere, play your part to ensure that the above can change your life for the better!
Local Government Researcher
Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)