2011 Local Government Election Campaign Final Rally
Remarks By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

 

 

Umhlathuze: Sunday 15th May 2011

 

I am thrilled to be part of this exciting occasion when we wrap up our election campaign over the past few weeks. Together we have fought an invigorating campaign, taking our 2011 local government election manifesto to every corner of our province and to many places beyond its borders where our party continues to enjoy popular support. The reception our campaign teams got in Gauteng, Amajuba, eThekwini, Cape Town, Zululand and elsewhere was thunderous and the enthusiasm of our supporters, especially the youth, was infectious. There is nothing better to energise a politician than an enthusiastic approval by those whom he or she aspires to serve. Politicians naturally strive to transform this popular enthusiasm into action in pursuit of their specific vision of society. My vision has always been one of equal opportunity for all members of society to realise their true potential. A successful society, in my books, is as much the sum of individual success stories as it is a team effort. Whenever we bar or limit opportunity for one individual to succeed, we undermine the potential for success for the whole community and, indeed, the whole society.

 

The uThungulu District, where we hold our final election rally today, has always had a special significance for our party. It is of our economic hubs, and it boasts unparalleled natural beauty. As such, the uThungulu District is alive with possibility. It is full of opportunities to improve the lives of all its residents through their individual and collective efforts. And, I am proud to say, at district level it has been led by a political organisation, the Inkatha Freedom Party, which has done a sterling job of harnessing the district's full potential against the backdrop of persistent challenges and enduring inequalities. The IFP-led uThungulu District Municipality has driven development in this region by expanding infrastructure as a catalyst for growth. In doing so, it has accumulated numerous awards and accolades, all of which speak volumes of its commitment to excellence. 

 

Our decision to hold our final rally here reflects our desire to celebrate the leadership of this district municipality as trendsetters who have led the way in many aspects of development for the rest of the province, if not for the rest of the country, and whose creative ideas and innovative approaches should be shared and emulated by partners in other regions of KwaZulu-Natal - and beyond.

 

This election campaign has laid bare a number of challenges of local government in this country. The lack of economic rights seventeen years into our democratic dispensation means that a large proportion of our population remains dependent on the state and the ruling party which purports to represent the state. The visits I have conducted to impoverished parts of South Africa over the past few weeks have shown me firsthand that breakdowns in service delivery affect the poor most severely. Some of the living conditions I have seen can credibly be described as inhuman and certainly no human beings should have to experience them. The human experience amid such deprivation is easily reduced to despair and people who are subjected to it are gradually stripped of human dignity.

 

Everyone should be able to hope in the prospect of a better future. The lack of the economic rights among many of our urban and rural dwellers means that they and their families are entirely dependent on government to transform their hopes into reality. But can a government that only talks about a better life for all and that only cares for the select, politically-connected few, ensure that everyone, irrespective of income or community standing, has access to the basic and social services?

 

Let me give you an example that proves that all the ANC can provide is a self-centred and uncaring government. It demonstrates that the ANC's persistent denial of its own failure to make local government work is so strong that it will not budge before the loss of human life. The recent incident near Ficksburg in the Free State where a service delivery protestor was shot dead by the police has come to symbolise a failed ANC-run municipality within a failed ANC-controlled state. It was a truly sad prelude to this local government election campaign. 

 

Andries Tatane, a local activist, took to the streets against the lack of basic services in his community and he paid for this with his life at the hands of the state police. The shooting clearly shows that unhappiness with the pace of service delivery in our communities is not taken by the ANC for what it is but it is rather seen as a challenge to the ruling party's claim to represent the people of South Africa and an assault on its grip on power. The shooting clearly shows that the ANC is more concerned about preserving its unchallenged power in all spheres of government than ensuring that its own targets for the delivery of basic services to communities are met. None of this, I can assure you, could have happened where the IFP is in charge. We do care about the people we aspire to serve and we do take their views and complaints about our work in local government seriously.

 

I cannot, at this point, but briefly touch on a subject that has troubled all our loyal supporters since the news of a breakaway platform within the IFP, known as the "Friends of VZ" hit the news. 

 

Although much of this is now ancient history, the fact remains that by transforming itself into a rival political party - the National Freedom Party, the "Friends of VZ" have done tremendous damage to the public image of our organisation. Driven by nothing more than personal ambition of our former National Chairperson and former Mayor of Zululand, Mrs VZ kaMagwaza-Msibi, and a handful of disaffected members around her, this new party now presumes to possess the capacity to eat into our traditional constituency. The best defence against the falsehoods peddled by the NFP about us is to tell the truth. And the truth is that voting for this new party is no different from voting for the ANC whose influence and finances in the NFP are there to see for anyone who cares to look. The NFP is a party with not a single credible personality or policy. Unlike the NFP, we in the IFP have a strong track-record of service delivery behind us to prove our worth.  With decades in power at local level in KwaZulu-Natal and most recently in control of the province's 32, mostly rural and underdeveloped, municipalities, the IFP has demonstrated its ability to govern effectively, efficiently and with integrity and compassion.

 

Unlike others who only talk about a better life for all, we have genuinely delivered services for all who reside in our municipalities. Unlike others who only care for the select, politically-connected few, we have brought tangible benefits to the workers, the entrepreneurs and the unemployed alike. We believe it is the role of government to ensure that everyone, irrespective of income or community standing, has access to the basic and social services. This is why we have implemented indigent policies and provided rates rebates for those vulnerable citizens who can meet the cost of municipal services halfway or cannot meet it at all. This is why every one of our municipalities has provided targeted relief for residents unable to afford basic services such as clean water, electricity and sanitation.

 

For those residents who can afford to pay for our services, our municipalities must ensure that the application of rates and service charges is fair. We have done this consistently in two ways. Firstly, all IFP-run municipalities make annual tariff increases as equitable, gradual and predictable as possible to limit disagreements and prevent unpleasant surprises. And secondly, all our municipalities make sure that residents are billed correctly and only for the services they consume. We also believe that a municipality's role does not end with the provision of basic services. Local government is central to the development of our local communities. It is where government and people interact in a very concrete and immediate way. It is where government physically encounters poverty and has a capacity to alleviate it. Our focus here has always been on helping our people help themselves. The path out of poverty does not lead through unchecked provision of social grants, which is a mere stop gap solution, but through sustainable employment.

 

But governments cannot create jobs by themselves unless they pile up jobs in the public sector, which is about the only sort of job creation we have seen from the ANC government. Jobs can only be created sustainably in an economy that grows as a result of entrepreneurial activity. Our cities, townships, informal settlements and deep rural areas are the potential engines of job creation. That is why we are determined to make our municipalities places of choice for established as well as emerging businesses. When businesses open and expand in our municipalities, they create jobs. We must not only create conditions that attract investment but ensure that businesses operate in a corruption-free environment. The current municipal tariff structures charge businesses disproportionately more in rates and service charges than ordinary residents without offering entrepreneurs any incentives in return. And the lack of transparency that surrounds tenders and potential conflicts of interest of municipal employees and Councillors acts as a deterrent for business. Both of these practices need an urgent review and we are determined to effect the necessary changes.

 

Improving service delivery for everyone in this and every other municipality is first and foremost about getting the basics right. Throughout this election campaign, the people wanted to hear from me how exactly the IFP would make a difference in their municipality. And I have summarised our plan for a better local government in the following five steps:

 

- Firstly, the IFP will set up a more efficient municipal administration. Without an administration that is corruption-proof and accountable, services cannot be delivered efficiently. To achieve such an administration, we will prioritise three policy areas that include implementing internal management processes to promote transparency and accountability within the administration, improving revenue collection to ensure that increased resources are available for service delivery, and appointing the right people to the right positions within our administration.

 

- Secondly, the IFP will reprioritise municipal expenditure towards service delivery and infrastructure. Every IFP-led municipality will spend the bulk of its revenue and funding on the municipal services such as clean, potable water and reliable electricity supply, effective sewerage reticulation and waste removal, and the development of the municipal infrastructure which will include the maintenance and renewal of infrastructure such roads, water pipes, as well as the planning and provision of infrastructure to new human settlements and developments. The municipality's own administration will only come third.

 

- Thirdly, the IFP will upgrade overall municipal infrastructure. As an opposition party we have already identified the most urgent infrastructure-related challenges that compromise service delivery. One of them is the lack of a water service development plan that would improve the ageing water reticulation and distribution infrastructure. Our second area of interest is waste removal. Here we will introduce and implement realistic targets while promoting the recycling of waste.

 

- Fourthly, the IFP will streamline the administration of the existing indigent policy. The provision of free services for those residents who cannot afford to make a financial contribution towards them is one of our oldest policies. In every IFP-run municipality, we will simply ensure that every qualifying resident has ready access to free water and electricity in adequate quantities.

 

I am confident in saying that these measures will not only rebalance the municipal books, but expedite those areas of service delivery that have long suffered from neglect. I have already heard the objections from the ANC about how these proposals cannot be implemented and how our administration would not work. The truth is that our policies would not work for the ANC because they do not provide for cadre deployment and they do not open the municipality to mismanagement, fraud and corruption. These unfortunate by-products of the ANC government have caused so many billions of taxpayers' money to be squandered that ordinary South Africans are suffering due to the resultant lack of delivery. Local government in this country is in trouble largely because the government persists in denial about the true state of our municipalities. Instead of addressing the gross underfunding of local government, financial woes of municipalities and the lack of critical skills that hamper service delivery, the government focuses only on what can best be described as an illusion of service delivery.

 

I find it amusing how all of a sudden delivery speeds up ahead of an election and how all of a sudden public infrastructure which desperate communities have had to wait for years magically appears for a handover in the run up to an election. Our provincial government has flooded our municipalities with so-called "service delivery events" during this campaign but I can assure you that this avalanche will promptly stop after the polling day only to resume five years later.

 

Rather than an administration interested in self-promotion, we need a national and provincial government that assists local government to improve its financial status and we need to ask, despite millions being spent on enhancing municipal revenue by the provinces, why this has so far borne no fruits. We also need to ask why millions that were set aside to enhance critical skills in local government remain unspent by the individual provincial governments. Local government delivers crucial services to communities and it also delivers important services on behalf of provincial government. However, it still remains the stepchild of national and provincial governments. This, like many specific policies that currently impede service delivery in our municipalities, has to change. And it has to change now.

 

It will not change, however, if the people continue to choose Councillors who care only about themselves and their cronies. It will not change, if the people vote for parties that care only about themselves. But my message for you today is not merely a warning against self-centred and self-important politicians who have either proved their incompetence in government or are hoping to get into government without a credible track record of previous achievements.

 

My message for this and every other community today is one of hope and opportunity. I realise that my party cannot implement any one of its policies and accomplish any one of its goals without you. I will be blunt about this as I have always been, about things that really matter. Without you, we cannot run an open and efficient local government that works with you, and for you. Without you, we cannot put a stop to mismanagement, fraud and corruption. Without you, we cannot prioritise spending on basic services and infrastructure where these have been neglected or open more municipalities for business.

 

But we can do it with you. Together we have fought an exciting campaign. Now it's time to transform our enthusiasm into action. Vote IFP because it's about YOU!

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Liezl van der Merwe, Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, on 082 729 2510.