Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says the government is confident that the October 27 local government elections will go ahead without hindrance and will be free and fair.
She said that despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, the Demarcation Board had managed to hand over its work to the IEC.
“We are therefore confident that [with] the experience we gained in the various by-elections we are ready,” said Dlamini-Zuma. “These 147 by-elections between November and March were in 133 wards and in all provinces, involving more than 800,000 voters.”
Dlamini-Zuma said they will use the May 19 polls, which involve 40 wards in seven provinces with 362,965 registered voters, to further refine their approach.
“We remain confident that the regulations, protocols and plans in place for these and the nationwide October elections will create an environment for free and fair elections,” she said.
She said the revised Covid-19 regulations enable voter canvassing and voting and that the government will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with the IEC in the context of the interministerial committee on municipal elections.
She said the elections offer all political parties an opportunity to fix municipalities by deploying and sending their best to the local government sphere of government, which is the most important to the people.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last month that the 2021 local government elections will take place on Wednesday October 27.
Dlamini-Zuma was presenting her department's budget to parliament on Thursday.
She said her department had set aside close to R618,9m in national and municipality allocations to address the water and sanitation challenges.
“Through this allocation, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent [Misa] and the department of water & sanitation have affected on 920,632 households in 205 municipalities. The households have been beneficiaries of the 15,487 water storage tanks, 1,382 water tankers and 235 boreholes,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said her visits to several districts including Harry Gwala, iLembe, Zululand and Alfred Nzo, in the Winnie Madikizela municipality, over the past year brought to the fore the lived reality of water injustices which are, in part, a result of SA being the 30th driest nation in the world.
“This reality is compounded by the legacy of apartheid and infrastructure maintenance shortcomings. These have resulted in the residents of rural SA and less affluent areas having no access to water,” she said.
“To address this, we are pleased to announce that the municipal infrastructure grant-receiving municipalities are now permitted to spend up to 10% of their budgets in urgent water and sanitation repairs and refurbishments. This is above the 8% norm for maintenance work,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
Quoting Stats SA, Dlamini-Zuma said only 45% of SA's households were able to keep up with water payments, and thus the debt to and by municipalities was on the rise. She said the increased debt is compounded by losses suffered by municipalities which are as a result of not maintaining and repairing municipal infrastructure.
For instance, municipalities lose water long before selling it through leaking and loose pipes, she said. “To this end, we have agreed with the National Treasury that municipalities can use up to 10% of the R55.3bn we have allocated for the various grants over the medium-term expenditure framework.
“The complexities of accessing these grants, the reallocation rubrics and the historic underspending has also led us to explore alternatives with the Treasury,” she said.