Proper governance needed

WHILE handing over houses to Sweetwaters residents, President Jacob Zuma warned councillors that he would be watching to make sure they improved people's lives.

WHILE handing over houses to Sweetwaters residents, President Jacob Zuma warned councillors that he would be watching to make sure they improved people's lives.

They would be held responsible if they failed to do so.

For communities living in desperate poverty the idea of the president watching out for them is no doubt a pleasing message.

We should be cautious about this, however, since while it certainly sends the right message about the importance of local representatives - not to mention local officials doing their jobs conscientiously - it also highlights the problem at the heart of our governance system.

Why is it necessary for the president to provide such oversight? Something is drastically wrong in the conduct of local governance when this needs to be done.

It is also entirely unrealistic. Sweetwaters is not the only community suffering from poor service provision and shoddy leadership. The president and his office do not have the staff and resources to provide such monitoring across the country.

Rather, we need the sort of efficient, developmentally focused governance system that our Constitution and laws envisage: councillors who represent their communities rather than party bosses and officials with the skills and ethics to carry out their jobs without the crushing interference of (counter-constitutional) "cadre deployment" programmes.

We need representatives with an understanding of the challenges of development and with sufficient respect for their constituencies to talk plainly and honestly about what is possible, and what is not. If we do this we will build a proper governance system. The alternative will see us forever looking for the next messianic intervention.

Fred Nel and Bev Abrahams,DA Gauteng Legislature members

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