Free State municipalities have pledged to serve their communities more efficiently and timeously as they seek to improve living conditions in their communities.
At a local government summit held in Bloemfontein last weekend, delegates from all municipalities in the province said they would redouble efforts to quicken delivery of roads, electricity, water and other services in their areas.
The provincial summit held under the theme “Going Back to Basics to Build a Responsive, Caring and Accountable Local Government” was attended by mayors, municipal managers, senior financial and technical officials from the municipalities.
The province has four district municipalities, namely Fezile Dabi, Lejweleputswa, Thabo Mofutsanyana and Xhariep.
There are 19 local municipalities in the province and Mangaung is the only metropolitan municipality.
The delegates noted that while most municipalities had successfully delivered basic services over the years, the local authorities had also been confronted by a series of problems which include shortage of skilled and qualified personnel and underfunding, among others.
In a declaration at the conclusion of the summit, the mayors and municipal executives said: “We therefore resolve to: put people first and ensure constant contact with communities through effective public participation platforms; create conditions for decent living by consistently delivering municipal services to the right quality and standard.”
They also pledged to ensure their municipalities were well governed, practised prudent management of ratepayers’ funds under their charge and to act against maladministration and corruption.
The delegates also undertook to remain united and cooperative in order to achieve the set goals as it was difficult to achieve the goals in a state of disunity.
“Noting that these commitments cannot be realised in the absence of unity and cohesion, we must remain united as all partners in the three spheres of government.
“To this end we further commit to the establishment of inter-governmental task teams towards implementing the vision of back to basics in serving our communities better to build a responsive, caring and accountable local government,” they said in the declaration.
Free State cooperative governance, traditional affairs (Cogta) and human settlements MEC Olly Mlamleli, whose department hosted the summit, said the provincial meeting did not seek to come up with any new proposals but to build up commitments drawn up at the second presidential local government summit held in Midrand, Gauteng, in September.
The overall objective of the summit according to Cogta was to make sure that municipalities implemented the “Back to Basics” programme by getting the basics right.
This includes ensuring that businesses and residents have adequate supplies of clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, shelter, waste removal and roads.
The summit sought to strengthen collaboration among each other and to establish an integrated approach to serving communities.
Meanwhile, a Free State provincial government team led by the chief executive officers of the departments of treasury and Cogta, Godfrey Mahlatsi and Mokete Duma respectively, has intensified intervention efforts to assist municipalities that have not been performing well.
Mahlatsi said Maluti a Phofung, Mafube, Ngwathe, Moqhaka, Nala, Phumelela, Matjhabeng, Naledi and Tokologo local municipalities have been listed as high priority areas because they are struggling to serve their communities and need urgent assistance.
“It’s mostly the issue of legacy that we have these municipalities in such a situation,” said Mahlatsi.
“We have been going to these municipalities for some time now and we would like to ensure that they improve their operations particularly financial management,” he explained.
Other local authorities such as Masilonyana, Mantsopa, Letsemeng, Metsimaholo, Mohokare and Kopanong local municipalities as well as Xhariep District Municipality are also listed as priority areas but are in a better state compared to the first group.
The top performing municipalities in the province are Tswelopele and Dihlabeng local municipalities as well as Fezile Dabi and Lejweleputswa district municipalities.
Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality is also part of the top performers.
Nketoana and Setsoto local municipalities and Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality make up the group of the second best performing municipalities in the province.