SA grapples with its own local govt issues

SA grapples with its own local govt issues

OPPOSITION parties have strongly criticised President Thabo Mbeki’s announcement that his government is considering bringing in skilled foreigners to help get South Africa’s moribund municipalities up and running.

In separate statements on Monday, the African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front Plus and Democratic Alliance blamed affirmative action policies for the lack of skills at local government level. The three parties all said there were many suitably skilled and qualified people available locally.Free State ACDP leader Casper Nordier said it was unbelievable government now planned to look for qualified people abroad.”Irresponsible affirmative action – often resulting in nepotism and favouritism, according to the president – forced people with the know-how out of the system.Now the taxpayer needs to cough up, and that is unacceptable,” he said.The ACDP agreed most municipalities had sunk so deep in the mud as a result of incompetence and corruption that urgent intervention was needed.However, local conditions differed vastly from those abroad, and bringing in people, for example from Cuba or Iran, would probably not do much to improve the situation.There were many qualified people with experience who lived in and around most towns, who could be available at a fraction of what it now cost to keep some incompetent municipal managers and other top earners “on board the gravy train”, he said.Democratic Alliance MP Willem Doman said in many ways the skills gap referred to by Mbeki was engineered by government in the first place.”In the 1990s, the government embarked on a campaign to ‘transform’ the state bureaucracy that saw skilled managers put into early retirement in order to meet the political objectives of the ANC government.”Experienced government bureaucrats, with much to offer, have been forced out of public service against their will.No doubt, they still have much to offer.”Since then, hiring policies in the public sector have been overwhelmingly driven by political considerations, often at the expense of the ability to deliver on the basic tasks of municipal governance.Having caused the skills crisis, it is unfortunate that the government now finds itself searching for unconventional solutions,” Doman said.Freedom Front Plus Gauteng leader Jaco Mulder said the fact there were so few people with the necessary expertise at local government level “has a lot to do with affirmative action”.He said he was “overwhelmed” by the number of calls he had received from former town clerks, city planners and treasurers after it had become known Mbeki wanted to recruit experts from abroad.”It has now become time for the government to reconsider its draconian affirmative action policies.A new agreement about affirmative action should be negotiated,” he said.Briefing the media on Sunday after last week’s Cabinet lekgotla, Mbeki said South Africa would have to import skilled people to execute the government’s development plans at municipal level.”There are very serious problems that are facing us with regard to capacity at local government level to implement these various programmes.”It does seem quite clear that we are not going to find the skilled people that we need immediately within South African society.They are not there,” he said.Government was therefore looking at “what we can do, particularly in light of the amended immigration regulations, to import the skilled labour as we work to train our own people to fill these posts”.- Nampa-SapaThe three parties all said there were many suitably skilled and qualified people available locally.Free State ACDP leader Casper Nordier said it was unbelievable government now planned to look for qualified people abroad.”Irresponsible affirmative action – often resulting in nepotism and favouritism, according to the president – forced people with the know-how out of the system.Now the taxpayer needs to cough up, and that is unacceptable,” he said.The ACDP agreed most municipalities had sunk so deep in the mud as a result of incompetence and corruption that urgent intervention was needed.However, local conditions differed vastly from those abroad, and bringing in people, for example from Cuba or Iran, would probably not do much to improve the situation.There were many qualified people with experience who lived in and around most towns, who could be available at a fraction of what it now cost to keep some incompetent municipal managers and other top earners “on board the gravy train”, he said.Democratic Alliance MP Willem Doman said in many ways the skills gap referred to by Mbeki was engineered by government in the first place.”In the 1990s, the government embarked on a campaign to ‘transform’ the state bureaucracy that saw skilled managers put into early retirement in order to meet the political objectives of the ANC government.”Experienced government bureaucrats, with much to offer, have been forced out of public service against their will.No doubt, they still have much to offer.”Since then, hiring policies in the public sector have been overwhelmingly driven by political considerations, often at the expense of the ability to deliver on the basic tasks of municipal governance.Having caused the skills crisis, it is unfortunate that the government now finds itself searching for unconventional solutions,” Doman said.Freedom Front Plus Gauteng leader Jaco Mulder said the fact there were so few people with the necessary expertise at local government level “has a lot to do with affirmative action”.He said he was “overwhelmed” by the number of calls he had received from former town clerks, city planners and treasurers after it had become known Mbeki wanted to recruit experts from abroad.”It has now become time for the government to reconsider its draconian affirmative action policies.A new agreement about affirmative action should be negotiated,” he said.Briefing the media on Sunday after last week’s Cabinet lekgotla, Mbeki said South Africa would have to import skilled people to execute the government’s development plans at municipal level.”There are very serious problems that are facing us with regard to capacity at local government level to implement these various programmes.”It does seem quite clear that we are not going to find the skilled people that we need immediately within South African society.They are not there,” he said.Government was therefore looking at “what we can do, particularly in light of the amended immigration regulations, to import the skilled labour as we work to train our own people to fill these posts”.- Nampa-Sapa

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