Time is limited for councillors in the Free State to be dilly-dallying around service delivery ahead local government elections expected in the next 18 months.
This was said by the new MEC for Cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta), Thembeni Nxangisa, during a meeting with over 300 councillors on Tuesday morning.
The meeting was also attended by officials in Botshabelo.
“In 18 months your time would have lapsed, so make sure your officials do the job as they are the ones who can make local government work,” Nxangisa told the councillors.
He said the engagement with councillors coincided with the 40th anniversary of the founding of Botshabelo township as a dumping area for surplus labour to service established white business in Bloemfontein.
The MEC recounted the township was established with no tax base by apartheid architects to render the area a labour depot and keep black people as far as possible from their areas of work in town.
“This was the apartheid vision; they established the area without a tax base but since the advent of the democratic dispensation we have crafted systems that cater for all without reserve,” said Nxangisa.
He noted he had called the meeting with the councillors to remind them the country would be heading to crucial local government elections in 18 months, marking the end of their five-year terms.
The meeting also sought to revisit the social contract the ANC led government entered into with voters through its election manifesto.
The MEC further urged the councillors to roll up their sleeves and work hard to push back the frontiers of poverty, as well as to come up with programmes that will translate into jobs at the local government level.
He added: “There is urgent need to address identified service delivery challenges; it cannot be right that people seem to be complaining forever without being heard.
“Services are a right not a favour. Use cooperative governance to serve our people; do things differently. There is no time to wait as our people are irritated by the long wait they had to endure for promises to be fulfilled.”
Nxangisa further told the meeting the level of communication between the councillors and their communities, and his office should be upped.
He instructed the councillors to hold compulsory trimester meetings with communities and to submit, without fail, reports of municipal activities for the same period to his office.
“Public representatives ought to be responsive, honest and presentable at all times,” he said.
On the same token, he warned councillors not to side-line traditional council representatives in their community meetings, and to ensure they’re invited.
Nxangisa also stressed the importance of improving public participation in all meetings and reviving ward committee structures in municipalities.
Communities need to receive services so that they are motivated to pay for them, he added.
The MEC pointed out government policy is to give land to the people, but warned against land grabs and infiltration saying such acts would be met with the strong arm of the law.
He also warned the councillors against unnecessary expenditure on luxuries such as gala dinners and overseas trips and to use the scarce resources at their disposal to advance service delivery.
Nxangisa called for proper billing of households that have turned their homes into business entities and also pleaded for the strengthening of monitoring systems on municipal by-laws to militate against littering.
“We need more effective governance at local level. We need to combat crime. Councils have to use law enforcement agencies to enforce by-laws.
Residents and businesses cannot continue to steal water and electricity without any consequences,” he warned.
Lastly, Nxangisa called on councillors and municipal officials to respect and treat fellow workers with dignity, reminding them that the workers are their enablers in achieving their set service delivery targets.
“Take care of our workers as our enablers. Pay them their salaries and unemployment insurance fund and provident funds. Respect workers and do not undermine them,” he said.