Radio Interview on Municipal Budgeting
[Audio] Afesis-corplan local governance programme officer Lindokuhle Vellem spoke to Alfred Nzo FM on Sunday October 20, 2019 on issues relating to municipal budget processes.
[Audio] Afesis-corplan local governance programme officer Lindokuhle Vellem spoke to Alfred Nzo FM on Sunday October 20, 2019 on issues relating to municipal budget processes.
[IN CASE YOU MISSED IT]: Here’s our Executive Director, Nontando Ngamlana’s widely publicised media statement on the refurbishment of the Glenmore Sports Field by the Ngqushwa Local Municipality.
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For background and more information about Glenmore, view the following articles on our website:
In order to improve accountability and to ensure that communities’ democratic rights go beyond a simple vote towards active political participation and engagement, efforts need to be made to capacitate and enable citizens to do so. In 2016-2018, Afesis-corplan, the Built Environment Support Group (BESG), the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) Southern Africa Office, Isandla Institute and PlanAct have jointly implemented a project entitled “Accounting for basic services: Tackling the inadequate use of resources by municipalities and building a rights-based approach to service delivery” – referred to as the ABS Project. The project has been supported by the EU Delegation to South Africa.
The ABS Project has developed a number of policy briefs, focusing on key issues that have been identified during the course of the project. The purpose of these briefs is to highlight the issue identified (e.g. inadequate access to basic services), outline the policy and institutional context (including the legal framework, municipal policies, intergovernmental relations, roles and responsibilities), identify challenges, gaps and opportunities, and make recommendations for policy and practice/uptake of policy.
Policy brief 1: Local Government Responsibility to provide Basic Services to Indigent Households
The Constitution highlights the right of all citizens to have access to basic levels of services. This principle is underpinned by the National Indigent Policy, which says that municipalities must provide free basic services (FBS) to indigent people in a sustainable manner. The Indigent Policy’s aim is therefore to alleviate poverty in disadvantaged communities by providing free basic water (at least 6 kilolitres per month), free basic electricity (at least 50 kWh per month), and subsidised sewerage and sanitation as well as solid waste management (up to R50 per month or 100% subsidy to indigent households).
Policy brief 2: The Reality of Insecure Environments
Rapid urbanisation has contributed to the growth of informal housing on a large scale. The accelerated migration of people from mainly rural areas into urban areas has caused informal settlements to grow beyond the coping capacity of municipal infrastructure, which has resulted in the deterioration of living conditions and the surrounding environment.
Policy brief 3:
Afesis-corplan was in Peddie on June 27 where residents of Glenmore marched to the Ngqushwa local municipality to demand that municipal officials respond to a petition they handed over in April.
The petition relates to the Glenmore community sports field which the municipality spent more than R2-million refurbishing. However the sports field remains in a shambles.
The community marched to the municipality in April to handover a petition requesting that the municipality rectify the poor workmanship done to the sports field.
Residents gave the municipality 30 days to respond to the petition however the municipality did not respond.
This resulted in community members embarking on another peaceful march on June 27.
Until this date the Glenmore sports facility remains inaccessible to members of the community wishing to use it.
Afesis-corplan has been involved in attempts to get the Ngqushwa Municipality to share information on the project and rectify the sports field.
This was done as part of Afesis-corplan’s Accounting for Basic Services Project which it is facilitating in Ngqushwa and Buffalo City Municipalities.
At the gate marchers we met by bouncers who then locked the gate. A few minutes later acting municipal manager at the Ngqushwa local municipality Mkhuseli Mxekezo emerged from his offices to address the marchers. He said the petition in question was still being processed by the municipal’s petition committee but could not give a date as to when it will be attended to.
See videos of the march on our YouTube channel.
Or view them all below:
SOME of the country’s top civil society organizations are meeting in Johannesburg this week to share in the experiences of six communities that were part of the Accounting for Basic Services Programme. With an aim to engage local government towards improving basic service delivery, the programme was implemented in six communities located in three different provinces, namely; KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. Supporting the project were NGOs Afesis-corplan, Built Environmental Support, Planact and Isandla Institute with funding from the European Union Delegation to South Africa and the Heinrich Boll Stiftung as implementing agent.
In attendance in the meeting which is aimed to draw insights and reflect on lessons emerging from this programme are seasoned civil society leaders such as Mazibuko Jara from Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda in Keiskammahoek, Nkosikhona Witbooi from Reclaim the City in Cape Town, Mbayiza Miya from the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, Sibongile Tshabalala of the Treatment Action Campaign in KZN, Gavin Anderson from the Seriti social enterprise in Johannesburg and Allison Tilley from the Open Democracy Advice Centre.
Afesis-corplan supported two of the six communities in question, one in Ngqushwa Municipality and the other within Buffalo City Metro. Some of the experiences shared which were common amongst the community leaders included:
Of the two communities that Afesis-corplan has been supporting, Glenmore in Ngqushwa and Chris Hani Park informal settlement in Mdantsane (BCM), after two years of engaging the municipality, the Glenmore sports facility still remains inaccessible and unfit for purpose despite Ngqushwa local municipality allegedly having spent more than R2-million to refurbish it. This indicates that engaging local government on service delivery is a slow and at times painful process and that communities wishing to engage on this road need to commit to the cause for as long as it takes.
The communities of KZN, Mpumalanga and Gauteng faced similar challenges. The purpose of the meeting was to facilitate a process in which key thematic areas of commonality that were emerging from the implementation of the programme could be lifted to inform local government policy and practice, said Thokozile Madonko of the Heinrich Boll Stiftung. Another key message that emerged in the meeting was about the importance of whistleblowers and how they are protected (or not protected) in South Africa. Commenting on the resilience of the community leaders in the room, Witbooi encouraged them to have a “fight back strategy” when dealing with unresponsive local government. “Don’t be scared to name names,” he said amid loud cheers and clapping of hands by delegates.
Jara told the delegates that ward committees were not fully serving their purpose and that communities need to find ways of engaging the state outside of the co-opted cabal of “community representatives”. He also commended the community leaders in the room for having served their communities well and for mobilizing for change, holding elected representatives to account. The funding support for the project is drawing to an end but the community struggle continues in each of the six communities.
The Glenmore sports facility remains inaccessible to members of the community wishing to use it despite Ngqushwa local municipality allegedly having spent R3-million to refurbish it. In response to a request for support by the Glenmore community, Afesis-corplan has been involved in attempts to get the Ngqushwa Municipality to engage and share information with the community on the project. This was done as part of Afesis-corplan’s Accounting for Basic Services Project which it is facilitating in Ngqushwa and Buffalo City Municipalities.
At the heart of the Glenmore stadium lies the fact that the community with a history of sporting tournament hosting and an active youth around sport now is without a sporting facility as a result of poor workmanship by the contractor that was meant to refurbish the stadium.
According to the tender documents the sports field was to have a new gate house, new male and female VIP ablution facilities, new change rooms, new netball court, new basketball court, new grandstands, new athletics track, refurbished pitch for soccer and rugby, irrigation systems and water fountain.
However when Afesis-corplan visited the field recently they found that poor workmanship had resulted in a building with structural defects and the sports fields had not been properly grassed.
The defects included, among others, an open hole in the ceiling of the changing room; roof leakages; visible cracks in the wall; windows that have been vandalised; uneven floor surfaces; inconsistent tiling; and spectators’ stands that were unstable and not safe for use. Furthermore the guard house next to the main gate had no window.
Speaking at a community meeting in March narrating the depth of the challenge Mr.MzameliGola who coaches the under 13 and senior soccer teams in Glenmore said that the aspirant soccer players walk a distance of 10km every week to get to Ndlambe village to play soccer on a field that is relatively improved simply because their own is in a terrible state, this after the supposed refurbishment.
Nontsikelelo Magobiyane who coaches the under 16 and senior netball teams agreed that this was the same case for the netball teams. She further alluded to the fact that as a result of this, many of the youth have dropped out of the teams she has been coaching because of the long distances they needed to travel for practice.
Glenmore, a village 20km outside Peddie towards Grahamstown, like many rural communities has very few recreational facilities. The sport field was seen by the villagers as a key recreational facility, one that would rally youth towards a good course.
One of the villagers alluded to how, as a result of the closed sports field, youth related social-ills have escalated in the area as a resulting of loitering about with no recreational activities.
All the community of Glenmore requires from Ngqushwa Municipality is information pertaining to what the contractor was asked to do, at what standards and whether in its assessment the municipality believes to have received value for its money. If not, the community wants to know what the municipality plans to do to hold the contractor accountable and wants to be part of seeking solutions that will eventually lead to the use of the stadium for its intended purpose.
The municipality has ignored and refused all attempts by both the community and its partner, Afesis-corplan, to access information that would assist in answering the questions the community has. Access to information is a constitutional guaranteed right under South African Law, one that ensures that communities like Glenmore are able to meaningfully participate in local governance. It is towards this end that we as Afesis-corplan are resolute in exercising our right in holding the relevant officials in the municipality to account.
With the support of Afesis-corplan, the community of Glenmore organised an Indaba on March 27 where the municipality and the contractor Onke Mgunculu of Mgunculu Trading were invited to attend but declined.
The Indaba is as a result of years of failed attempts to get answers from the municipality. The Indaba went ahead as planned and the community of Glenmore made it known that poverty and rural location will never be determinants of how government should treat its citizens in a democratic South Africa.
The people of Glenmore have now resolved to draft a petition to office bearers at Ngqushwa local municipality to rectify the sports field as soon as possible.
Afesis-corplan’s programme officer Lindokuhle Vellem said the two year delay in getting the sports field working again had had a negative social impact on the community of Glenmore.
“For a community that derived immense social and economic benefits from the sporting activities and from a thriving culture of active sport, the delays in the refurbishment of the sport field cannot be underestimated,” Vellem said.
Ngqushwa local municipality spokeswoman NcumisaCakweNgqushwa declined to comment on the state of the Glenmore sports field refurbishment and its state of readiness, despite numerous requests for comment by Afesis-corplan.
The Accounting for Basic Services project is a partnership between the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Afesis-corplan, the Built Environment Support Group, Planact and Isandla Institute with support from the European Union.
On the 18th of July, which is the international commemorative day for Nelson Mandela’s Birthday, the Afesis-corplan team travelled to Glenmore community in the Ngqushwa Municipality of the Eastern Cape. It was a fun day filled with singing and laughter, cleaning and painting. To end the day a huge Mandela cake was shared in memory of our fallen statesman.
Afesis-corplan has been working with the community of Glenmore through the Accounting for Basic Services (ABS) project. Through this work, the group approached Afesis-corplan to help revive their once vibrant CommunityAdvice and Information centre, which was last operational in the mid 1990’s. The day not only revived the centre, but the community’s belief in their strength and the length to which they can go in reviving their community.
The day was filled with the young and old working together towards a desired goal, which sets the stage for more collaborative development in the community. This is especially worth mentioning because of the history of division between the youth and the older generation. There’s quite a bit of unwritten history about the community that the young people in Glenmore are not aware of. As Afesis-corplan, we believe that as we endeavour to hold more of these collaborative spaces and conversations, the stronger Glenmore becomes and a space for passing down Institutional knowledge is facilitated. ABS starts with having stronger community links before holding an external body accountable.
New developments on the Accounting For Basic Services (ABS) scene: the team is proud to announce the completion and publication of the Guide to Local Government Budget Advocacy. The guide is designed to empower Civil Society Organisations to better understand Municipal Budgets. The clearer understanding will ensure more effective advocacy around service delivery and promote the effectiveness of civic education in building the capacity of citizens on participatory budgeting practices. The purpose of the document is to empower citizens to make the local governance space one that has improved capacity to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of basic service to all South Africans, more especially to the poor.
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is the process by which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources. PB/municipal budgeting programs are implemented at the will of governments, citizens, NGOs, and civil society organizations to give citizens a direct role in deciding how and where public resources should be spent. These programs create opportunities for engaging, educating, and empowering citizens. These active citizens contribute to fostering a more vibrant civil society. PB also helps to promote transparency, which has the potential to reduce government inefficiencies and corruption (IBP, accessed Jan. 2017)
There have been numerous attempts to manufacture a system that enables citizens to participate in the developmental affairs of their municipalities. Many of these legislated platforms, like the ward committee system, have come under scrutiny from the proponents for active citizenry. The main criticism is that existing public participation strategies may not be as effective as they were initially designed to be. Within the many debates around participatory democracy,it has been found that getting people involved in the budgeting and allocation of funds within a municipality brings confidence and involvement to the citizens as they partake in their own development agenda.
In countries (such as Porto Allegre and Brazil) where municipal/public budgeting has become a working system, it has been found that most citizens who participate in PB are low-income and have low levels of formal education, and are groups who have been historically excluded from budget decisions. These countries provide empirical proof that effective PB programs create active citizens that are then able to make choices that affect how their government acts (IBP, accessed Jan. 2017).
Afesis-corplan, together with national and international partners -namely: Planact (Gauteng/Mpumalanga), BESG (KZN), Isandla (Western Cape) and HBF (Western Cape); IBP who have been assisting with social audits and Budget trainings; and the Social Audit network – are in the process of rolling out the Accounting For Basic Services programme (ABS), which focuses on equipping citizens with legislated knowledge on Municipal budgeting systems and the roles they are meant to play.
In fostering an environment of accountability, the programme will employ various Service Monitoring Tools such as social audits, community score cards and other similar initiatives. Troubleshooting the procurement process around the refurbishment of Glenmore sports field (Glenmore is a rural community on the outskirts of Ngqushwa Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape) we will be engaging with the municipality and the various players through the use of the Social Audit process.
Positioning communities as accountability agents comes with its own set of challenges, one of these being able to access relevant information without resistance or prejudice from the municipality. And although Acts such as the Promotion of Access to Information are used, as per the book, it is still a challenge accessing information.
As we endeavour to create a society in which we would all want to live, where the principles of democracy are realised, there’s a need to continually revisit and at times reshape the chosen trajectory to “development”. Community development is a journey rather than a destination and using tools and strategies like Public Budgeting and other citizen-centric monitoring tools could yield better results. Stay with us on this journey as we unearth the true South African Citizen, one that holds its Government to Account for Basic Services.