Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
FOR several years now, Azapo has been calling for the abolition of provinces or at least a drastic reduction of their powers.
The latter would mean a loss of legislative and executive powers for them, making them simply administrative entities.
In conversations with some of my colleagues in the ANC at a time when they ruled at national and in all the nine provinces, I suggested they could do the country a great favour by using their dominant political position to scrap the provinces.
Of course they didn't, not because they didn't see the point, but because with time it has become politically difficult to do so. Provinces have become centres of power that provincial leaders can exercise.
It would not be in the interest of these provincial leaders to easily agree to the abolition of provinces.
For a small country like South Africa, with a population of about 48million, 10 legislatures and 10 governments is too much.
These 10 governments gobble up lots of money and, more importantly, render governance cumbersome and incoherent.
This is particularly manifest in departments with concurrent powers, such as education and health.
It is difficult with one party in power in both national and provincial spheres. It is much worse if different political parties are incumbents at these two levels.
One shudders to think of the governance mayhem that would result if one day South Africa is ruled by, say, six parties at national and provincial levels.
Some might welcome the political contestation that would result, but policy coherence and the implementation of programmes to benefit the citizens would suffer immensely.
Azapo proposes the abolition of provinces, which would leave the country with two spheres of government, namely national and local. We believe this would benefit our population immensely.
Firstly, it would reduce the size of government structures significantly, making it more coherent and efficient.
The nine legislatures in the provinces, together with their executive committees, would disappear.
The talent that resides in these structures would be available for service in the two spheres, but particularly at the local level where such skills are sorely needed.
Secondly, the abolition of the nine legislatures, their attendant structures and bureaucracy would release tens of billions of rands that would be directed towards the development of the country, especially in municipalities where the need is greatest.
Ours is a developing country with frightening levels of poverty and huge developmental problems relating to roads, water provision, housing, access to electricity and so on.
We need to channel every cent we have to these needs, instead of spending billions of rands on an unnecessarily large government.
If provinces are retained, they should merely be administrative instruments, coordinating the work of the national and local governments in the various provinces.
Such provinces could be headed by a governor who is appointed by the national executive of state.
Azapo further suggests that, given the closeness of local government to the people and their needs, the powers and functions of municipalities could be increased.
They could, for example, be given the responsibility of looking after the physical aspects of schools.
It could become their duty to ensure that schools in their jurisdiction are maintained, have access roads, electricity, water, toilets, proper fencing and so on.
Funding for this responsibilities could then be appropriated directly from the national sphere of government.
Policies related to education, the curriculum and the appointment of teachers could remain with national government.
The same arrangements could be made with other departments, such as health, for the maintenance and running of clinics.
It is to be expected that federalists would jump up and down at this suggestion, but we think a trade-off must be made between a coherent and cheaper government that tackles poverty more effectively on the one hand, and a cumbersome and wasteful one that is ill-suited for a country like ours, on the other.
In any case, come to think of it, provinces add very little value to the government of the country. Their disappearance would be a boon to the country.
lThe writer is president of Azapo