This document was prepared with special reference to the debates on the current state of affairs in local and national government. In compiling this document we looked at our policies on local government, adopted in 1998 NASREC National Conference. Our structures should be able to use this document to engage in these debates and to adopt parts of it to develop flyers, slogans and even position papers suited to particular situations that our members are involved in. Your contributions to the further development of this document are important because it is our collective effort that will accelerate the building of our party and ensure its prospects to run local government in our communities. This document should be read in conjunction with the UDM guidelines on local government .
It is argued in this document that the national consensus on the structure, powers and boundaries of local government, which the government claim exists is superficial and does not emanate from the choice of all South Africans. A close scrutiny of our democratic transition in the sphere of local government reveals major differences and tensions between the rural and urban community expectations/needs vis–a–vis government strategy for meeting those expectations/needs.
Given the prevalence of historic inequalities between the urban and rural communities, which resulted from the apartheid system of social engineering and the impact this has on the disadvantaged majority of South Africans, the UDM believes that the debate on local government should be approached as a national issue of importance, that precedes and transcends the forthcoming local government elections. While noting the importance of the existing White Paper on local government, it cannot be denied that the mainstream of South Africans have no clue what the document is about because they have not been consulted. This situation is compounded by the fact that even in the limited elite consultation that takes place, party loyalists dominated it. Thus the process is not owned by those it is intended to serve. The question of rural development is a vexed one in South African politics because the legacy of past colonial/apartheid administrations had been to exclude the rural areas from the mainstream of the economy by relegating them to the backwaters of cheap labour reservoirs. This approach resulted in the skewed and uneven development, which concentrated infrastructure and resources in the major metropolitan centres where the primary and secondary mining and manufacturing sectors respectively are based. The government white papers gloss over the question of rural development without dwelling, on the details of the administrative modalities which will make rural development possible. The current debate on rural municipal demarcations has brought to the surface a lot of questions, which have not been answered when the decisions on demarcations were taken. It also exposes the lack of adequate and clear consultation on the role and powers of Traditional Authorities in the rural areas, with regard to control of areas in which, development must take place, and their scope and capacity in the facilitation of development in the areas of their jurisdiction. The ruling party and its allies contend that the demarcation of primary municipalities is cast in stone because it emanates from a constitutional provision concerning local government. They also argue that this was a consequence of agreements reached at Codesa. If this is true, the unanimous rejection of municipal boundaries demarcation in rural areas by the traditional leaders, testifies to a collective lack of information and knowledge about those Codesa agreements, which can only mean there was no adequate consultation with the traditional leaders, on such and important issue, which impacts on their powers and roles in the areas of their jurisdiction. Neither is there clarity on the administrative roles of municipal local government and traditional leaders structures on developmental activities on land under the jurisdiction of these leaders. There is a pervasive duality of power and control in the rural areas, between elected and traditional structures, with a strong bias in favour of elective rural structures, which is perceived by the traditional leaders as a surreptitious ruse by the government to gradually erode their power and role, in the areas of their jurisdiction, to a point where these traditional institutions, will be rendered extinct. If these perceptions are justified and the government, on objective analyses is seen to be viewing traditional authorities as archaic (outdated) and should give way to modern elective democratic structures, then this is a matter, which must be debated openly, with all role players in particular the traditional leaders and the people who live in their areas of jurisdiction and who subscribe to the institution of traditional leadership. It is hardly fair to engage in furtive deceptive manoeuvres to erode the traditional institutions as this undermines the trust and the confidence the rural communities have reposed in the government. The solidarity and aspiration of the people of our country in their historic defeat of the oppressive apartheid regime was fuelled by the belief in and the desire for the redistribution of the resources of our country to empower the suffering people and communities in meeting their basic needs. It was their desire which formed the basis for demanding the restructuring of the institutional framework which had for centuries been maintained by force, i.e. the material and social imbalances in our society. In practical terms the demand for restructuring should focus on the need to address the imbalances in the distribution of resources between urban and rural communities, the equitable and efficient provision of rural services such as proper housing, water, sanitation, electricity, sustainable land reforms and community infrastructural development. It was because of declared commitments to these social demands that the ANC was able to receive overwhelming support in the 1995 local government elections. With great power and enthusiastic support from the people of those who knew poverty in their lives, the ANC launched the Reconstruction and Development Programmes (RDP) as a vehicle for responding to these needs. It was not long before the ANC elite’s decided overnight to abandon the RDP strategy for addressing the needs of the poor and adopted without proper consultation, the GEAR policy through which the government has seen fit to renege on the promises and commitments it had made to those who brought it into power. In both, urban and rural communities the current condition is that of infrastructural collapse, rising crime and unemployment rates, lack of economic growth and institutional collapse in such critical social areas as health and education. In the urban areas we witness the proliferation of informal settlement structures without due consideration to environmental and town planning standards. The total neglect of the requirements for integrated economic development in the planning and construction of residential areas undermine proper planning for roads, transportation and efficient social service delivery.