CHALLENGES facing South Africa on the service delivery front are a litmus test for government in so far as executing our electoral mandate for the next five years is concerned.

In recent years, including the period since our fourth democratic elections when our people renewed government's mandate to effect concrete changes in their lives, sporadic flare-ups of service delivery protests, at times violent, have been a steady sight in certain pockets of the country.

Admittedly, the government has had its own challenges of capacity, signalling a lack of technical capability at local government level, which is a service delivery site where our electoral mandate as government is translated into a living reality.

Over time failure or incapacity to address the basic service delivery needs of our people has thus occasioned protests witnessed in some areas, including current protests in Sakhile in Standerton, Mpumalanga, and in Palmridge, Ekurhuleni.

Ironically, these last two recent developments are occurring against the background of the President's upcoming meeting with more than 283 executive mayors and mayors, accompanied by municipal managers, to discuss the state of local government and service delivery improvement in the local government sphere.

Scheduled to be attended by the highest level of government representation, and the three spheres of government, this meeting will include 11 national ministers, including the ministers of finance and of economic development.

The President will also be joined by the nine premiers and all the nine MECs responsible for local government, as well as the South African Local Government Association.

Taking place at Oliver Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, tomorrow, this gathering highlights government's determination to improve local government capacity by addressing binding constrains impacting negatively on local government's ability to execute its duties with due efficiency.

The meeting, therefore, is part of government's commitment to continue searching for solutions to these challenges with the view to improved service delivery, at a faster and sustained pace.

Broadly, this meeting should also be seen as a sequel to previous service delivery improvement meetings that the President has had with various stakeholders to improve dialogue and action within the public service, such as recent encounters with school principals and the police.

Critically, while government understands the need to move with speed regarding these crucial challenges of meeting the needs of our people, there is and can be no justification for wanton destruction of property, trampling on other citizens' rights and general lawlessness, however legitimate the grievances.

In this regard, government reiterates its call to all our communities to refrain from violent acts and destruction of property as witnessed over the last few days in both Sakhile and Palmridge.

Violence is an impermissible act of lawlessness and a violation of other people's rights.

Local governments are going to be a significant part of the work to be done in the Presidency on performance monitoring and evaluation. Local government is a tier of government that is mandated to provide a set of very basic and essential services. Focus will be placed on monitoring the quality of the basic plan they submit which describes how they plan to deliver on their mandate.

Specific monitoring will be on how they perform relative to targets they set for water and sanitation, electricity, roads and storm water, refuse removal and the provision and maintenance of infrastructure.

A key reason for failure to deliver relates to having financial resources, and the monitoring work will examine to what extent municipalities can improve on revenue collection, reduce costs and produce audited financial statements.

Their ability to build a strong management team and have the basic capacity to deliver at the level of the municipal manager, the financial officer, the head of planning and that of technical services, will be evaluated. An attempt to use this information to rank the performance of municipalities will be made as a way of rewarding good performance and recognising and sanctioning failure.

The government remains committed to meeting the objectives of growth and development in partnership with our people. Working together with our communities, we believe achieving these goals of prosperity for our people is within the realm of possibility. This important government-wide gathering chaired by President Zuma will thus help contribute to better ways of improving governance at the local government level.

l Chabane is Minister in the Presidency: Monitoring and Evaluation