Okhahlamba Rally - 2011 Local Government Election Campaign
Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

 

Okhahlamba/Bergville: 30 April 2011

 

It is good to be with you all here at Okhahlamba today and I am honoured and humbled to have your friendship and support as I officially declare the intention of the Inkatha Freedom Party to continue leading the Okhahlamba Municipal Council after the Local Government Elections which are now less than a month away. These are indeed challenging times for the town of Bergville and the surrounding communities. The IFP has been in power in this municipality ever since the current municipal structure was introduced more than a decade ago.  We are proud to have brought stability and development to this previously neglected and underdeveloped rural area. And we have done this against all odds, so to speak.

 

We have had to contend with insufficient funding municipalities receive from the national fiscus and we have had to find creative ways to ensure the day-to-day running of a municipality that could not raise much in the way of its own revenue because the vast majority of its residents live in abject poverty. Rather than being able to pay for municipal services, most of the people who live around here rely on the provision of free services. Some would find such challenges insurmountable, but not we in the IFP! The progress we have achieved in terms of provision of basic services and infrastructure is truly commendable considering how little money we have had to spend on these items in our successive budgets.

 

It is most unfortunate that, for a time, our good work was compromised by a handful of self-serving individuals who abused their positions at the helm of this municipality for personal gain. I will not mince words when I denounce their despicable actions. These individuals, among whom I count former Mayor VR Mlotshwa, had been democratically elected to lead the Okhahlamba Municipality as Councillors on the IFP party list only to betray their party's values and principles once they were safely in power. This is by no means a unique story of betrayal, nor is it an isolated example of corruption by power. A nineteenth century British moralist and historian Lord Acton put it aptly: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power absolutely."

 

The mismanagement of municipal funds and allegations of corruption that resulted from the behaviour of these renegade Councillors did not merely draw the ire of the IFP leadership but caught the attention of the KwaZulu-Natal Auditor-General earning the IFP-controlled Okhahlamba Municipality a string of unfavourable audit opinions from the supreme audit institution in the province. As party leader, I had spent a lot of time over those troubling days, consulting one-on-one with dozens of Okhahlamba residents - from prominent community and church leaders, to business owners and schoolteachers, to rank-and-file party members - about the course of action the IFP should take against the Councillors who have betrayed the trust not only of their party but the community they were elected to serve.

 

These discussions were very eye-opening. Even before these Councillors revealed their true colours by conspiring against the IFP with the so-called 'Friends of VZ' - a pressure group established to advance the leadership ambitions of the then IFP National Chairperson VZ kaMagwaza-Msibi, the IFP leadership had no choice but to expel them from the party on the strength of their shameful performance in the Okhahlamba Council. As things turned out, this decision has been vindicated. The 'Friends of VZ' have since registered as a political party under the unelected leadership of Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi and many of the former Okhahlamba Councillors who had given us so many sleepless nights are now competing for votes in the upcoming elections under the orange banner of the National Freedom Party.

 

Although this unfortunate episode has done a lot of damage to the IFP's reputation on the ground and compromised efficient service delivery in places like Okhahlamba, its resolution has meant that today we know where we stand. For the upcoming elections, we are bringing you candidates whom we have appropriately vetted during our candidate selection process and about whose integrity and loyalty to the party we have no doubts. By contrast, our opponents in the NFP are offering more of the same -  discredited individuals who previously ran this municipality for their own gain rather than the benefit of its residents and, in doing so, mismanaged and wasted precious municipal funds. It makes me laugh when some commentators make the case for the NFP as a party rooted in local government! What experience does the NFP have in local government?  The shenanigans that ex-Mayor Mlotshwa did to promote his own interests.

 

I am aware that individuals like the former municipal leadership at Okhahlamba are one of the reasons why people like you are disillusioned with politics and with politicians. We live in a cynical age. Our political leaders too often play on our vulnerabilities and our fears or exploit our differences for their own personal and partisan gain. In doing so, they miss real opportunities for advancing the welfare of those who put them in their positions in the first place. Forget the NFP for the moment and consider its big brother - the ANC. After seventeen years of ANC government in our country and seven years in our province, I would like to adapt the ANC's election slogan of "working together we can do more" to "working together we should have done more". In Okhahlamba you are facing the ANC and its clone, the NFP. A vote for the NFP is a vote for the ANC.

 

Corruption and cadre deployment 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 our province is in trouble largely because the government persists in denial about the true state of local government in KwaZulu-Natal.  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 appearance 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 communities have had to wait for years magically appears for a handover in the run up to an election.

 

We need a national and provincial government that assist 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 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 Provincial Government. Local government delivers crucial services to communities and also delivers important services on behalf of provincial government. However, it still remains the step child of national and provincial governments. If serious attention is not given to the functioning of local government - and soon, we will be faced with more service delivery protests ahead of the local government elections. The recent incident near Ficksburg 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. 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. None of this could have happened where the IFP is in charge.

 

I strongly believe that we can solve the problems experienced by local government by doing two things, namely:

  1. Restore proper financial management in our municipalities; and

  2. Appoint qualified officials in specialised posts.

Solutions to the associated challenges will follow. I believe that the main focal point of the department should be to restore service delivery by restoring proper financial management and controls in municipalities. Without money municipalities will not be able to deliver the services expected of them. We need skilled, professional career local government officials and not deployed cadres. This leads directly to tender and other forms of corruption. We need people in positions that can do the work while empowering the previously disadvantaged South Africans.

 

The success in local government rests on labour, in other words, the quality of our human resources. In order to make the endless turn-around strategies work in local government, we need a stable political environment with the backing of skilled officials. I want to use this opportunity to honour those many employees in local government - and they know who they are - who are doing good work and who do not stray from the right path. We have witnessed first-hand here at Okhahlamba that the temptation to abandon the mandate of the people and pursue personal agendas is only too great. Unless we ensure that every elected Councillor and every appointed official emulates their example, we will never enjoy an effective and efficient local government that would benefit everyone in South Africa.

 

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.

 

I believe in a politics of hope and opportunity. I believe - because I know this from experience - that public service has the capacity to bring people together to enrich the common good. If nothing else, I want my party's candidacy in the upcoming Local Government Elections, and its time in office should it be elected to represent the people, to demonstrate that politics and public service can be an uplifting and creative force for improving our communities and leaving this world a better place for our children. Here is what I have learned in talking with people from all walks of life over the past few days since I have been on the campaign trail:

 

I have observed that people are tired of being promised the same promises over and over and that they eager for change. They see taxpayer Rands being used for questionable or downright wasteful purposes, and wish for greater fiscal responsibility in government. 

 

They see poverty amidst plenty, and wish to expand opportunities for people to become self-sufficient.

 

They see traces of corruption in every sphere of government, and they wish democratic institutions whose job it is to fight it would work harder to ensure that crime does not pay.

 

They see arrogant and incompetent people in positions of power, and they wish access to those position were open to qualified individuals with a calling to serve others. They see important decisions being made with too little input from the citizens who will be affected by those decisions, and wish for more openness and participation in the decision-making process.

 

I, too, see these things and I, too, wish to change them. It is tempting sometimes to just resign ourselves to the idea that there is little we can do to change the way things are. But the message I have brought to Okhahlamba today is one of hope and opportunity. At the same time, I realise that my party cannot implement any one of its policies and accomplish any one of its goals without you. Without you, we cannot run an open and efficient local government that works with you and for you. Without you, we cannot stop 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. Vote IFP. It's about YOU!

 

I thank you.