Address at the National Council of Provinces, Cape Town 12 October 2000

Chairperson of the NCOP;
Honourable Premiers;
Honourable Members of the House;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we spoke at the National Assembly in June on the occasion of the discussion of the budget vote of the Presidency, we addressed the issue of the challenge of the transformation of our system of governance.

We did this because of the critical importance of this matter in our continuing struggle to build our democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society.

Precisely because of this importance, we are of the view that all of us must participate in the process of the execution of the national task of the conceptualisation and construction of this system of governance.

I believe that it would be fundamentally wrong for us to leave this matter solely in the hands of the Executive.

It is true that, as it should be, our legislatures, including this Council, do indeed participate in this process, as they consider legislation directed at the establishment or the transformation of the institutions of government.

Beyond the adoption of such legislation lies the task of creating the institutions and establishing the processes the law visualises.

I believe that you, as law makers, should have a continuing interest in the achievement of the objectives contained in such legislation as you would have approved.

Today, for these reasons and in continuation of the remarks I made in June at the National Assembly, I would like to address the critically important issue of local government.

As the Council knows, the Minister of Provincial and Local Government, the Hon Sydney Mufamadi, has now announced the date on which the local government elections will be held.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey our government's understanding of the frustration that all political parties and the electorate as a whole might have felt at the delay in the announcement of this date.

Nevertheless, I would like to plead that this delay was necessary in the context of the search for inclusive processes as we pursue the reconstruction and development of our country.

It is clear that some voters will be inconvenienced by the fact of our holding the elections on the particular date announced by the Minister. I would like to apologise to all of these and assure them that we tried our best to avoid this inconvenience.

Nevertheless, I hope that all those affected will make the necessary effort to exercise their right to vote for candidates and parties of their choice. This is of the greatest importance to the continuing national effort further to entrench democracy in our country.

I am certain that the Independent Electoral Commission will do everything in its power to ensure that all registered voters have the possibility to exercise their democratic right freely to help constitute our local legislatures.

As the honourable members are aware, the majority of our voting stations will be based on school premises. As has happened in previous elections, we will continue to count on our principals and teachers to assist the IEC and the nation to conduct successful elections.

I appeal to this important sector of our society once more to demonstrate its patriotism and selflessness by helping to man these voting stations, displaying the same dedication that inspired all of us during the last general elections.

Once again, I would like to call on all our parties and all the candidates, to do everything they can to ensure that the forthcoming elections are free of all violence and intimidation.

Given the levels of violence in our society that continue to be a matter of serious concern, all of us have a continuing responsibility to entrench the practice and culture of the resolution of all conflicts in our society by peaceful means.

This includes the conflict inherent in the competition among parties and individual candidates for the necessarily limited elective positions in our legislatures.

We have to implant the understanding among all of us that any seat won through the coercion and intimidation of the electorate is a seat acquired by fraudulent and criminal means.

Anybody who holds a seat by virtue of resort to these anti-democratic means should be left in no doubt that he or she sits in any of our legislatures as a pariah, with no legitimacy and no right to the honoured title of a people's tribune.

Again as this House knows, the holding of the forthcoming municipal elections has brought into sharp relief the need for us as a country to address the issue of the role and place of the institution of traditional African government in our democracy.

Many of our country's traditional leaders have taken the view that the installation of the new municipalities, with elected councils, will result in the complete obliteration of their powers. They fear that they will therefore be transformed into nothing more than a ceremonial institution.

Correctly, they raised this matter with our government, requesting that it should be addressed. We have agreed with them that, indeed, the issue should be addressed, taking into account all relevant factors, including the further consolidation of our non-racial and non-sexist democracy.

As a result of the interaction between the government and the traditional leaders, agreement has been reached that our constitutional and legal order has, in fact, diminished the powers that traditional authorities exercised prior to the transition to democracy.

We have also agreed that we have to attend to this issue. Apart from anything else, this should ensure that we give real content to the objective contained in our Constitution to respect the institution of traditional leadership.

Accordingly, we have agreed with the representative structures of the traditional leaders that this matter will be addressed in two phases.

The first of these refers to the interim period immediately after the election and installation of the new municipal authorities.

The question that must be addressed is what powers, roles and functions should be attributed to the traditional authorities in the context of the existence in the communal areas of elected municipal councils.

This will be done before these elections take place.

The second phase is the longer term, during which a comprehensive determination must be arrived at relating to the same questions of the powers, role and function of the system of traditional government.

A satisfactory response to this important challenge in both phases may require that we make such changes to our legal order as may be necessary, to ensure that we give legal expression to the agreed powers, role and function of the system of traditional government.

I trust that the Honourable Members will understand the importance of these processes and thus be willing to convene as a part of the national legislature to consider such statutory measures as may be required.

I am pleased to inform the honourable members that our government is firmly committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure that the concerns of the traditional leaders are addressed with regard to both phases.

This will be based on the common agreement that the institution of traditional government must play a meaningful role as part of our system of cooperative democratic government.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to our traditional leaders for their readiness to support and encourage the process of democratisation and to work side by side and in harmony with the elected democratic institutions.

It was for this reason, given our assurance that their concerns would be attended to, that they supported the speedy announcement of the date on which the municipal elections would be held.

In this context, I would like to believe that the traditional leaders will play their role in ensuring that these elections take place in conditions of peace, with everybody in the communal areas and elsewhere in our country, enjoying the right freely to choose such candidate or party as they may wish to.

I must also call on our state security organs once more to make yet another sterling contribution to the common objective of achieving free and fair elections.

The Hon Sydney Mufamadi has addressed the Council on the revolutionary process in which we are engaged to create an entirely new system of local government.

You have also discussed this important matter as you considered the White Paper and the legislation that gave legal force to our intentions to establish a system of local government that is democratic, people-centred, meaningful and effective.

Accordingly, it is not necessary for me to cover the detailed ground you have already traversed. Nevertheless, as I have already indicated, I would like to make some comments to the Council relevant to the process in which you have been engaged of the construction of a new system of local government.

The National Council of Provinces occupies a unique position in our constitutional order as a consequence of which it must play a special role in ensuring that we succeed in the creation of the new system of local government.

Among your ranks you have members of our Local Government Association, directly representing in this national legislative chamber the local government sphere of government.

As you know, this places you, this Council, in the select and therefore difficult position of being the only legislature in our country that directly spans all three spheres of government.

As a Council you have various statutory responsibilities with regard to local government.

At the same time, you are directly linked to our provincial legislatures and executives which, in turn, also have statutory responsibilities towards local government.

It is therefore both necessary and appropriate that the Council reflect deeply and seriously on the strategically important issue of everything that has to do with the establishment of the new system of local government.

I can report to the Council that in the last six years, we have, as a country, made great strides in the transformation of our country's institutions of national government.

We would not hesitate to make a similar statement about the state system at the provincial level.

Needless to say, we are not suggesting that we have realised all the objectives we set ourselves or the goals that are a necessary consequence of our common pursuit of the objective of creating a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and people centred society.

The reality is that we still have to travel a long road before we can be satisfied, as a nation, that we have the kind of state machinery that we would be happy with.

But still, there is no gainsaying the fact that, most remarkably, we have managed to establish the new, replacing the old, at a speed and in a manner that even we never thought was possible.

I am convinced that we cannot make the claims with regard to local government that we can make, quite legitimately, with regard to national and provincial government.

This is not to deny the positive results achieved by the elected local government representatives, the municipal public servants and the ordinary people in all localities during the last few years in bringing about change at the base and foundation of the new South Africa we are struggling to create.

The unequivocal recognition of this reality must however be qualified by a similarly honest admission of the fact that of our three spheres of government, we have made the least progress at the level of the local system of governance.

I am convinced that we have now elaborated and legislated the necessary policy, institutions and processes that will enable us to ensure that we achieve balanced transformation among all the spheres of government.

The forthcoming elections give all of us an opportunity to make an important advance in our common struggle to bring into being the new system of local government.

All this vividly illustrates the point that the fundamental social transformation of our country continues to occupy pride of place on our national agenda for the construction and development of our new society.

That social transformation requires, among other things, that we create a truly developmental state system that serves the interests of the people, that is truly representative of all these people, efficient and cost-effective.

Our system of local government must also be built on the basis of these principles. We are convinced that the local government legislation you have approved gives us the possibility to achieve these objectives and thus create a radically new system of local government.

I believe that it is in the interest of all of us, regardless of party affiliation, to ensure that we succeed actually to build this new system focused on enabling the people to participate in government and ensuring that the government and the state play their proper role in the struggle to achieve the objective of a better life for all.

I am certain that the matter is clear to all of us that we can never realise these objectives unless we have local governments that are strong enough to bring about development where it must occur, in each and everyone of our localities.

It was for this reason that we all thought it necessary that we should consolidate our municipalities into larger and more rational entities rather than continue with institutions that are too small, fragmented and weak.

Needless to say, the mere creation of these larger entities by itself will not solve the problems that confront us. Together, we will have to do more work to ensure that these larger and fewer municipalities actually have the capacity to meet the challenges of social transformation at the local level.

I would like to discuss a few of these challenges to indicate to the Council some of the matters which I believe the Council should concern itself with as it makes its own contribution to the construction of an effective and efficient system of local government.

One of the biggest challenges is going to be how we use the new structures as vehicles to de-racialise our communities. In doing that, there may be tension occasioned, among other things, by the effort to ensure the more equitable distribution of resources between affluent and poor areas, to address the serious disparities in service delivery.

We need to de-racialise the settlement patterns in our country. The establishment of integrated residential areas will give us the possibility to unite our people so that together they can create conditions of peace and stability where they can live side by side as good neighbours, friends and compatriots.

Honourable Members

As we all know, rural areas pose a specific developmental challenge in our country. Black rural areas were in the past completely neglected in terms of governance, infrastructure and infusion of resources. We will need to put in place measures effectively to end poverty and under-development in these areas.

The manner in which we have redefined these structures by integrating some of the more advanced municipalities with rural ones, seeks to address this challenge. The new local government structures will ensure that rural areas enjoy better access to resources, both human and material, flowing from a broader base.

The new structures will also play a key role in the implementation of the government's integrated rural development strategy, which seek to defeat poverty and ensure sustainable development.

They will also consolidate the work done in implementing the projects approved in terms of the Local Economic Development Fund.

In order to meet these objectives, we need to build the capacity of these structures in a manner which will ensure that we effectively meet the challenge of reconstruction and development. We need to ensure that we put some of the difficulties we have experienced in the past behind us. In this regard, we will insist on better monitoring and the establishment of early warning measures.

Government will make resources available to enhance the capacity of these structures properly to manage their finances and ensure effective delivery of services. This will involve the training of elected representatives in strategic management and of relevant staff in financial management.

For local government to succeed, national and provincial government will have to play a significant role in providing support and participating fully in the resolution of all challenges thrown up by the introduction of these new structures. This House, occupying the unique position we have referred to, will have to make a contribution to the success of these structures.

Honourable Members

Local government is the primary sphere of interaction between citizens and their government. It must succeed, lest democracy becomes devoid of any meaning to the great majority of our people.

I wish all the political parties in our country well in the forthcoming elections, bearing in mind the critical importance of these elections to the continuing consolidation of democracy.

I thank you.

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