President Cyril Ramaphosa says local economic development is one of the key drivers to lowering the rate of poverty, unemployment and inequality in the country.

“When there is more investment and business expansion, jobs are created, livelihoods are supported, and the benefits circulate in local areas.

“That is why accelerating economic growth, attracting investment and creating jobs must be at the centre of the efforts of all spheres of government,” the President said on the second and final day of the National Local Government Summit.

Hosted by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the two-day summit held in Boksburg, Gauteng, brought together close to 2 000 senior officials and leaders across all spheres of government, legislature, business, academia, traditional leaders, civil society, women, youth and people with disabilities to deliberate on a collective programme of action for an ideal municipality.

The President told delegates that as the country works to recover economically after the pandemic, there is fiscal room to “expand the provision of services that improve people’s lives”.

The President has over the past two months attended a number of launches of  business expansion projects, which are being built in towns and metros, where people live and where they are needed most.

The President said investors look at the quality of the provision of water, electricity, sewage and refuse removal – all aspects that are in line with the theme of the summit, ‘DDM in Action – Towards an Ideal Municipality’.

The District Development Model (DDM) calls for an ‘all of government and all of society approach’, which advocates for integrated and responsive planning to fast-track development.

“If we are to harness the momentum of economic recovery that these new investments signal, local government has to be strong, efficient, capable and well-run.

“When domestic investors and multinationals make decisions on where to bring or expand their investments, one of the first factors they consider is whether there is an enabling environment in that locality.

“They look at the quality of the roads and at the quality of the infrastructure they will need to transport products to market.

“They analyse whether the environment is safe and secure, and whether they will be able to protect their investments. If they are not satisfied that their needs will be met, they choose to invest somewhere else,” he said.

The President has called for the prioritisation of the DDM as the country works to promote local economic development.

“We need to ensure that this integrated, multidisciplinary approach to government planning and implementation must translate into local economic development that changes lives at a household level.

“We need to ensure that mayors and councillors are deeply involved in the promotion of local economic development.”

President Ramaphosa urged mayors and councillors to drive the process from start to finish, and not just leave it to consultants.

Revenue collection

The President told delegates that they have to embark on course correction to advance the principle of people-centred local government.

“This means focused and committed leadership across all municipalities, with stronger strategic relations with the private sector and other social partners.

“It means improving the quality and efficiency of local government through better funding, planning and execution.”

The President stressed that municipalities must focus on revenue collection to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to fulfil their functions.

“In addition to the jobs it creates and the community development it enables, vibrant local economic activity strengthens the financial position of municipalities.

“It makes these municipalities less dependent on grants from the national fiscus and empowers them to pursue the interests of residents with greater focus.”

In order for the country to build ideal municipalities, the President emphasised the need to address the instability within governance structures and processes.

Political stability

The President bemoaned the political contestation and infighting that is wreaking havoc in municipalities, saying it must come to an end.

“We should once and for all end the hijacking of municipal councils and administrations for self-enrichment and personal gain.

“Local government should employ people who are able to perform the functions they are responsible for, and should carry them out in an accountable, transparent, efficient, effective and responsive manner.”

In carrying out this mandate, President Ramaphosa said municipalities must receive the requisite support of all other spheres of government, public entities and State institutions.

President Ramaphosa called on delegates to focus on solutions as they discuss ways to improve governance and administration, and solve service delivery challenges.

He said the focus must be “more on outcomes and less on intent”.

“We must bridge the divide between policy and implementation, between aspiration and results, by focusing on what must be done.

“Let this be an opportunity for all of us tasked with the business of local government to emerge from this conference with tangible actions and achievable aims. 

“Let us reaffirm our commitment to improving the living conditions of the people of South Africa through developmental local government,” the President said.