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Early retirement as Executive Director of DDP

“I’m so glad we had this time together…but now it’s time to say good bye”

Dear colleagues and friends of DDP it is with mixed emotions that I wish to announce my departure from DDP, an organisation that I have served for 25 years. I believe that my work here is done and it is time to make way for the next generation to carry on the work that I had started. During my tenure I have had the opportunity to work with many of you in many different capacities and all of this has contributed to my personal growth, the growth of the organisation and the strengthening of our democracy.

I have always espoused the value of authentic partnerships, and the power of collaboration. I would like to believe that I have modelled this value in all our interactions over the years.

I will be exiting the organisation at the end of 2018 and am confident that I am leaving behind an energised and efficient team to lead the organisation and its work well into the future. I leave an organisation that has a clear succession plan and an embedded ethos of   collaboration rather than competition.

I still believe I have something to contribute to the building of this nation and will be using my Organisational Development and leadership training to facilitate workshops with civil society organisations and educational institutions. My leadership role is done!

 I will remain closely associated with the work of DDP as I will always regard it as the place that allowed me to make the greatest contribution to the building of this nation.

It has been a privilege working with all you amazing people and organisations. I want to wish you well in your work and I know that our paths will still cross often. I hope that I have the opportunity in the coming months to meet with each of you personally and say thank you for walking with me. My new contact details are as follows:

rama@6degreeshift.com

www.6degreeshift.com

Yours in service

Rama

Grassroots democracy begins with open ward committees

By: Dr Paul Kariuki- DDP Programs Director

Citizen participation is an essential element of our constitutional democracy. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world with a liberal Constitution that enables citizens to participate actively at all levels of governance.

The government established the ward committee system in accordance with sections 72 to 78 of the Municipal Structures Act, 1998, to improve people’s involvement in local government and municipal development planning.

The government had envisioned citizen-led local governance that would influence municipal decision making; involving citizens from planning to implementation, as well as evaluating municipal involvement, to deepen democracy in pragmatic ways.

Although setting up the ward committees system was a novel idea, the structure does not seem to be producing the envisioned results and improving community participation in municipal governance.

There are several reasons for this.

First, the structures have increasingly become platforms for political party activism. Most political parties have turned ward committees into recruitment grounds for potential party followers. 

In the end, ward committees cease to serve the interests of citizens and, eventually, their concerns are not responded to appropriately by the municipality.

 

Second, the composition of ward committees is problematic. In most cases, they are composed of dominant political parties in the area. The proximity of ward committees to branches of political parties often pulls ward committees into the struggles of these parties, eventually weakening their capacity to serve the local community.

Notably, key marginal populations — such as women, the youth and people living with disabilities — are rarely represented in the structures.

Third, decision-making is not transparent. Most ward committees are used to endorse decisions already made elsewhere. In most cases, these decisions do not favour residents. As a result, it is almost impossible for people to hold local leaders accountable, given the lack of details about how decisions were arrived at.

Eventually, interventions unrelated to the needs of residents gain prominence and the citizenry is left on their own, suffering under the weight of poor service delivery.

Fourth, the low levels of literacy among some ward committee members is concerning. This makes it difficult for them to read and comprehend municipal documents, which are often written in technical language. The net effect is that they are unable to communicate confidently with the local communities on any of the issues contained in the documents.

Fifth, too many incompetent ward councillors serve as chairpersons of ward committees. Meetings are not properly scheduled and happen in an ad hoc manner, procedures are not followed correctly and some councillors are unprepared for meetings. All these issues undermine effective local governance and weaken the capacity of ward committees to deliver as expected.

The effectiveness of ward committees must be enhanced if citizens are to appreciate the gains of our hard-won democracy.

Ward mechanisms to communicate with residents must be improved, especially where decision making is concerned. Municipalities need to understand that, if their aim is to use ward committees to endorse decisions already taken elsewhere, people’s participation will be ineffective.

Residents must have an effective say in decisions that affect them and be given the space to play a role in implementing them, even if the council is ultimately responsible for governing the municipality.

Municipalities must avoid a bureaucratic, technocratic, one-size-fits-all approach to ward committee management and be flexible, innovative and creative in their engagement with people, using a variety of processes and structures. This is critical to advance active citizenship.

For instance, ward committees should be empowered to take responsibility for ward development plans that feed into and respond to the integrated development plans. When citizens are involved, they move from deficit thinking to that of abundance, for they know their needs better than municipal officials.

Ward committees should be depoliticised so that citizens can engage and serve without feeling obligated to trade off their values for political favours. Ward committee meetings should be aligned with important council meetings to ensure that the voices of citizens are heard and not only those elected to local leadership. Once a month would be ideal for strengthening effective participation.

Ward committees should be tasked with the responsibility of drawing up annual profiles of their wards. In line with this insight, ward committees should also oversee the delivery of services and development in their locality. Practically, wards ought to be contributing towards the municipality’s assessment of the quality of the services of an applicant before the contractor is fully paid out.

Where possible, within clear guidelines, municipalities should incrementally allocate resources to “enable ward committees to undertake development in their wards”, an aspect that is already provided for in the law. With this empowerment, ward committees could, at least, take some responsibility for mobilising citizens to undertake some practical developmental actions, such as fixing potholes in their streets, fixing pavements and restoring street lights, using local labour.

The allocation of funding resources and delegating power to employ labour could produce tensions in ward committees and among residents. This kind of arrangement will need to be managed skilfully.

Municipalities should be obliged to consider ward committee decisions. Consideration needs to be given to amending the legislation to oblige municipal councils to consider proposals from ward committees and provide them with feedback. Within reasonable limits, ward committees should be given reasons for why their proposals were unsuccessful. Ward committees should be bold enough to request them.

Ward committees should operate by a code of conduct. They must be operated professionally, because they are dealing with people’s lives. This move is highly likely to lead to heightened accountability of committee members to both the residents they serve and the municipality.

Municipalities should also provide administrative and other support, including for the training of ward committee members. More specifically, the public participation unit in the speaker’s office could monitor support and report on the functioning of ward committees.

Part of the key performance indicators of the public participation unit officials could be the performance of the ward committees. For the officials to be effective, they will have to consider the complexities and contradictions of their wards.

Where funding and other resources are provided, the municipality must actively monitor that ward committees use them productively and effectively in terms of the law and policies. If ward committees do not function effectively, municipalities could consider dissolving them as they are empowered to do in terms of the law. Learning the lessons, municipalities must then assist in creating effective ward committees to enable meaningful public participation at the local level.

Developmental local government requires functional ward committees. Without this, citizens will continue to doubt whether democracy works. For them, democracy must be lived, not legislated.

Paul Kariuki is the programmes director of the Democracy Development Programme in Durban. These are his own views

Promoting Social Cohesion through skills sharing

Paul Soti

South African department of arts and culture defines social cohesion as," the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and society at large, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression among individuals and communities.

In terms of this definition, a community or society is cohesive to the extent that the inequalities, exclusions and disparities based on ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, disability or any other distinctions which engender divisions distrust and conflict are reduced and/or eliminated in a planned and sustained manner.

This, with community members and citizens as active participants, working together for the attainment of shared goals, designed and agreed upon to improve the living conditions for all". In as good as it may sound, the challenge often is to find meaningful shared community goals however, my view is to create special purpose vehicles (SPVs) in our quest to promote integration between the migrant community, refugees, asylum seekers and the locals. One such vehicle which seems to be working like a well-oiled machine is skills development.

With such alarming statistics as at 2017 SA had 30% jobless individuals and 65% unemployable people, undoubtedly there is much need to tap into the large pool of skills which the migrant community, refugees and asylum seekers possess. Nonetheless, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that with a whopping 65% unemployable people there is no amount of social grant that would take away the despondency in communities thereby dampening the social cohesion and or integration efforts fibre.

As an asylum seeker and a social justice practitioner living in this country I have driven all my efforts towards skills development as a social cohesion and integration tool. I have done an organic farming skill transfer in Adams, soap making in KwaMashu, hair shampoo making in Zwelisha Maoti, hair shampoo in 2 different places in Bhambayi and much recently toilet cleaner making in Lindelani Ntuzuma A hall. In all these efforts I have partnered with the local organisations to champion these causes and I can safely say everywhere we have gone so far; the narrative seems to be changing for the good day by day.

There is however much that remains to be done in terms of social cohesion and integration and it's sufficing to say no matter how insurmountable the challenge looks we can only achieve living in harmony by taking one bite at a time.

Confusion, not consensus, is driving SA’s land expropriation debate

By: Dr Paul Kariuki- DDP Programs Director
For decades, equality of all has been a contentious issue in South Africa, even with an enabling Constitution and a Bill of Rights. The land question has come at a time when the political climate in South Africa is highly charged. And with scanty details about how the land will be distributed and how it will impact the nation’s economic status, there is a cause for anxiety.

The reality is that access to land is a highly emotive matter in any country. This is because of the economic importance attached to it as an appreciable asset. It therefore evokes charged emotions whenever a subject such as land expropriation without compensation comes up for debate.

Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa, while addressing the National House of Traditional Leaders, informed the nation that the issue of land expropriation would unfold in a manner that did not pose a threat to the national food security, implying that it would be done in a manner that boosted agricultural production while redistributing it back to those from whom it was taken, through wide-ranging consultations with all stakeholders.

According to the latest available figures from 2017 land audit, most of the land in South Africa is owned by white people – 72% in rural areas (in the form of farms and agricultural holdings) and 49% in urban areas. It is undeniable that in the interests of land equity and justice in the country, land redistribution is necessary in the interest of reversing the past injustices that led land inequity.

 

However, it is imperative to remember that land in South Africa has always been expropriated in the past without compensation through legislation.

Given this historical background, the socioeconomic and political consequences of the recent call for a constitutional amendment for land expropriation without compensation cannot be overlooked. Whatever the measures that will be taken even after repealing section 25 of the Constitution, any amendments must be constitutional.

First, it is important to ask why did the land restitution programs collapse? This is a national conversation that the government ought to convene and engage with citizens and stakeholders across the country.

 

Second, it is important that the issue of land compensation not to be racially determined, because following this approach breaches the constitutional rights that all citizens enjoy regardless of their racial background. There is room for constructive dialogues to find amicable solutions to this debate without betraying our democratic imperatives of equality. However, if any piece of land is needed by the State for a public benefit, then the State is constitutionally permitted to engage with its owner irrespective of racial background of its owner and agree on a fair value of compensation as per Section 25(3) of the Constitution.

Third, because the Bill of Rights provides the framework through which rights of all citizens are protected, it must be used a legal instrument to facilitate land justice in the country. As emotive and complex as the subject is, there must be a willingness from the White landowners to come to the party and all parties involved in the process should negotiate in good faith. The dialogues must be authentic and well-facilitated to address all fears and concerns whilst exploring available possibilities to guide the restitution process.

Fourth, intense civic education on this matter is needed. It is a critical tool for enabling citizens understand their constitutional rights and duties including their duties to other citizens as members of society. The absence of civic education in academic programs in the country contributes largely to reactive responses by most citizens as there is still a knowledge gap as far as rights and responsibilities are concerned. This knowledge deficiency poses a threat to upholding the rule of law. Our nation needs civic education.

In conclusion, land redistribution is about restoring dignity to all citizens. Land redistribution is unavoidable. However, it must be done sensitively to ensure it does not reverse the gains of democracy and undermine the rule of law in the country. The process of engagement must be within the ambits of the Constitution

 

State failure hurts tax collection

By: Dr Paul Kariuki - DDP Programs Director

Since democracy in 1994, the government has been promoting a developmental local government that is responsive to the needs of citizens.This entails among other things substantial financial resources to ensure that the government adequately meets the needs of its citizenry.

But, despite significant financial resources allocated and expended by municipalities on the delivery of basic services, satisfactory service delivery remains a distant dream for most people.

Moreover, over the past decade, the revenue bases of municipalities have dwindled, especially those in peri-urban and rural areas, adversely affecting the capacity of municipalities to deliver services to their constituencies. 

And the challenge of providing services efficiently and effectively will seemingly linger for a long while given the current low tax collection by the South African Revenue Service because of citizens withholding their taxes. When Malusi Gigaba was minister of finance, his medium-term budget policy statement in October last year reported that the economy was expected to grow by 0.7%. This was against the backdrop of the state failing to collect about R50.6-billion in taxes.

The situation hasn’t changed much since then. Given that the nation is technically in recession, the fiscus is under dire financial strain. The treasury is at pains to explore ways to reinvigorate the economy so that it can grow and stimulate a conducive environment for creating jobs.

But the question that still lingers is: Why are citizens withholding paying their taxes?

Although their reasons are diverse, some of the main reasons could be attributed to poor service provision by municipalities, unbridled corruption in the municipalities and the government generally, political patronage, weak enforcement of public finance management requirements resulting in ineffective monitoring of public expenditure processes and lopsided revenue sources and expenditure plans.

All these factors combined could be contributing towards the low morale of citizens and their decision to withhold their taxes.

South Africans are becoming increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of service delivery, and are demanding not just improved service delivery but also discernible value for money on public expenditure. To a large extent, the discontent among citizens is clearly about the failure of their taxes in the form of government revenue (inputs) translating into expected services (outputs).

Furthermore, most municipalities continue to receive qualified audit reports, with the majority reporting high levels of wasteful expenditure of taxpayers’ monies that cannot be accounted for. This is disheartening to say the least and warrants urgent correction if citizens’ hopes in the municipalities are to be restored.

Citizens’ unwillingness to pay their taxes faithfully as required by the law must be understood against this background. In the face of dwindling tax revenue to support government programmes, it must cut spending on nonperforming state entities to prioritise basic service provision and other urgent and pressing needs, such as fees for students in higher education institutions.

Citizens are expecting urgent remedial action by the national government to raise their hopes. Inadequate revenues have the capacity to affect local governance adversely. Civil protests are highly likely to become the order of the day, especially when citizens can no longer bear the weight of the increasing cost of living with little or no affordable and accessible public services.

With fiscal risks increasing at an alarming rate, the treasury will be at pains to allocate sufficient resources in its 2019 budget to ensure local governance is not adversely affected by any cuts in spending. Financial management in municipalities must be tightened to ensure that wasteful expenditure is halted permanently.

Other corporate governance failures, such as not holding corrupt municipal officials to account for their lack of professionalism, must be enforced while at the same time promoting responsible financial stewardship in the municipalities.

Inherent in this argument is a view that citizens will be observing closely to see how the government will respond to the fiscal challenge. The integrated development plans, for instance, cannot be effectively implemented without adequate financial resources. This, in turn, implies service delivery will remain unaddressed, further exacerbating the present development challenges.

But there is a twin side to this challenge — citizens’ tax morality. For law-abiding citizens, paying taxes is a moral obligation that cannot be negated, irrespective of the levels of disillusionment with the government. Failure to pay taxes means delayed services provision and prolonged spates of poverty, unemployment and widening income inequalities, among other challenges. Moreover, noncompliance is illegal and can attract prosecution.

This is a clarion call to all law-abiding citizens to pay their taxes so that together we can exercise our civic duty of holding the government accountable, as enshrined in the Constitution.

For its part, the government must use public resources responsibly, curb corruption and all forms of maladministration in all spheres of governance and prosecute those public servants who break the law and misappropriate public resources.