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‘Politicians cause 80% of problems in municipalities’ — Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo

‘Politicians cause 80% of problems in municipalities’ — Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo
Dr David Masondo (Deputy Minister of Finance). (Photo: Gallo Images / Ziyaad Douglas)

South Africa should invest more time and research in learning about coalition governments, deputy finance minister David Masondo said on Tuesday. He was referring to the lack of state capacity and how it contributes to slow economic growth in the country.

‘Politicians,” said Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo, “are the source of 80% of all the trouble in municipalities.”

Masondo was speaking at a function organised by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and sponsored by Volkswagen, where he unpacked the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement specifically for the motor industry, which is a core economic component of the metro.

Masondo said the lack of state capacity was a major threat to economic growth in the country and a challenge for municipalities in particular.

“Part of the challenges in all municipalities are the politicians. Politicians wield enormous power. If officials are incompetent, the nation suffers. If we as politicians deploy them for ourselves, people suffer.”

He said that when municipalities had to be placed under administration for failing to deliver services, capacity was taken away from the national government which had to then send skilled officials to lead the recovery processes.

“We must start building capacity now to manage coalitions,” Masondo said.

He highlighted the unemployment crisis, saying that if one drives through a township at the moment, it looks like the weekend — nobody is at work. 

“South Africa is not a good place to live in,” he said. “We have a huge problem. We must grow the economy and make sure it is an inclusive economy.” 

Masondo spoke of the importance of stability in the economy, saying the inflation rate should ideally be stable, as should the rand.

“Investors want price stability otherwise it is difficult to plan. The exchange rate needs to be stable. We do not want a Zimbabwe dollar. The rand must be convertible,” he added.

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He said the poor performance of state-owned entities was another reason why the economy has not been growing. Crime and corruption contributed to this, Masondo said.

He highlighted the government’s plans to break the monopolies held by Eskom and Transnet, saying plans were under way to open these two sectors for private companies.

“Reforms will generate competition,” he said, but added that reform was one thing, and proper execution, another.

Masondo said current restrictions of two years, placed on private sector companies being given access to rail infrastructure, might provide a major stumbling block as it is not enough time for a return on investment.

He said the government was appreciative of the contribution made by the Nelson Mandela Business Chamber to services ordinarily provided by the municipality.

The Business Chamber had taken the lead in advocacy and assisting the metro with repairing water leaks during a drought crisis earlier this year. The national water department had to stage an intervention and the Amatola Water Board was appointed as an implementing agent. 

So far, the Business Chamber programme, staffed and financed by businesses in the metro, has saved more than 1.3 million litres of the metro’s clean water from going down the drain each day.

The programme has been extended by another month into a further two “leak hotspot” suburbs, with more than 1,600 households being surveyed for leaks, and on track to hit its target of more than 1.5 million litres saved daily before the end of November.

To date 3,716 households in an initial six areas have had their leaking taps, toilets and pipes repaired by local businesses that offered their time and resources to help turn the tide on the Bay’s water management crisis.

The chamber has also introduced a programme where businesses can adopt a substation in their area and provide security to prevent vandalism. DM/MC

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Michael Forsyth says:

    At last some sensible comments from an ANC politician.

  • André van Niekerk says:

    Despite the dire situation in most municipalities, there are municipalities that deliver good services, or pockets of good service delivery in poor municipalities. These are mostly where there is still a core of good, professional officials who are non-political in their work approach. In most cases, good service delivery happens in spite of politicians, not because of them.

    Many of these officials are risking their careers, as at some point they are confronted with having to say no to a political master. Then follows the practice of allegations, trumped-up charges, sudden suspension. Most officials cannot financially fight such charges in court, and then leave the industry. Those who do fight for their rights, and sometimes win, often then have to leave anyway due to a “breakdown in trust”, or some such.

    This scenario often follows cadre deployment at senior level, and in this way the public service system has been broken, leaving a majority of incompetent or at best inexperienced people in charge.

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