Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says that the government has begun the urgent roll-out of its new district development model as part of the country’s response to Covid-19.
Presenting her revised budget in parliament on Wednesday (22 July), Dlamini-Zuma said that new system will help ‘correct’ the social inequalities which have been further exacerbated by the pandemic.
The model aims to allow for more specific service delivery and budget considerations ‘at a district-level’. Critics of the model, particularly from opposition parties, say that it will take away power from local municipalities, giving national government leeway to intervene across all spheres.
Under the model, all three spheres of the government will coordinate and integrate development plans and budgets while also mobilising the capacity and resources of government and civil society -including business, labour and community – in pursuit of inclusive growth and job creation.
As part of the new system, Dlamini-Zuma said that President Cyril Ramaphosa has also deployed ministers and deputy ministers as ‘district champions’.
“We have profiled all 52 district and metro spaces so that we can facilitate for the participation of our people in a decentralised economic system as envisaged by the Reconstruction and Development Programme.
“The champions will contribute to vertical and horizontal integration of government planning and implementation,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said that the national government is also able to develop an in-depth understanding of the country’s districts.
“For instance, the John Taole Gaetswe District is almost the size of Rwanda at over 27 thousand square kilometres, with a relatively small population size of over 261 thousand people.
“Despite the fact that it is a mining area which provides our country with ore and manganese, 78% of its population is poor and most of the land is not utilised, despite the abundance of cattle and sheep.
“Covid-19 has given us the reset button to coordinate our efforts towards developing this and other districts.”
Dlamini-Zuma said that the ‘deployment of champions’ will be complemented by a shared services model at a district level.
This will avail local economic development, planning, engineering, planners, ICT, financial and other capacities and capabilities to our municipalities, she said.
“Through the transparent one-plan and one-budget, every citizen will know of the status of plans, budgets and implementation, thus lessening the potential of corruption and maladministration.”
However, the minister recognised the auditor general’s report and she acknowledged that the government can’t ‘pretend that all municipalities are in good shape’.
“Covid-19 has not spared the municipalities it has also affected the revenue collection potential of all municipalities. For instance, there has been an under-collection of R3.1 billion over the past 3 months in eThekwini, Ekurhuleni and the City of Cape Town.
“In order to ease the burden on municipalities, the president announced an allocation of R20 billion, of which R11 billion is under the equitable share and R9 billion is repurposed infrastructure conditional grants.”