Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Building democracy

As South Africa heads into 2006 with a buoyant economy and booming business confidence, spiritual and secular leaders are sounding an optimistic yet admonitory note. The Most Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, notes in his year-end message that many public officials are using their positions to get rich quickly rather than serve the public.

The president noted that people expect much from national, provincial and municipal governments - improved quality of life, better service delivery, improved safety and security against crime, more jobs and so on. Yet service delivery depends on local government, and the best programmes, as planned by central government, too often break down at municipal level.

There has been an unseemly scramble in some areas for seats on municipal councils, driven too often by corrupt motives.

Mbeki said citizens expected honest, accountable service from councillors. They are not always getting such service. The malaise in municipal government is serious. Official figures show that 136 out of 284 municipalities cannot perform their basic functions. Administrative skills are wanting. The weakness of many municipalities needs to be urgently remedied. A good starting point would be the election of councillors in March who are genuinely committed to serve their communities rather than line their own pockets. Cape Times

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