Public Protector looks into plight of rural communities as part of governance

Issues giving rise to alleged disharmonies between traditional leaders and local government authorities in several provinces will come into sharp focus during a two-day public hearing that Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane launched as part of the 2017 National Good Governance Week (NGGW) in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The problems, which are said to be severely hampering service delivery in rural communities, came to Adv. Mkhwebane’s attention during the four-month Stakeholder Engagement roadshow that she embarked on earlier in the year. This prompted her to focus this year’s NGGW on the plight of rural communities.

During the roadshow, it was gathered in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, North West and Eastern Cape, among others, that one of the impediments to service delivery is apparent strained relationships between traditional authorities and municipalities.

In the Free State, the Public Protector was approached by the Barolong-boo-Seleka traditional leadership, with a number of complaints that were allegedly occasioned by poor relations between the provincial Traditional Leadership and the Mangaung Metropolitan Council.

In the main, the dispute centred on allocation of sites to the community, with the root cause of the impasse being who, between the two institutions, had the authority to do the allocation. The traditional council complained that this state of affairs resulted in alleged incorrect title deeds and incorrect subdivision of sites, thereby undermining noble efforts of security of tenure.

Another claim was that the alleged lack of engagement between the two institutions affected the contribution of traditional councils to the municipal Integrated Development Plans (IDP).

The issue of who had the authority to allocate sites also came up in the Public Protector’s engagement with the community of Madibogo in the North West. There the community complained that the chief was allocating land without consulting the municipality. This was alleged to have a negative impact on the municipal role of planning for and rolling out services. On the other hand, the municipality was accused of developing the area or building RDP houses without consulting the chief.

As a result, it was alleged, the chief instructed the community not to occupy the houses. The houses now stand as white elephants and have become hideouts for criminals.

Various role players with direct interest in the matters will explore solutions to these problems over the next two days in hearings that will be facilitated by Adv. Mkhwebane and a team of senior investigation officials.

Among the participants will be the National House of Traditional Leaders, Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders, Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa), the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

The hearings serve as an information-gathering exercise that seeks to help the Public Protector with research ahead of a systemic investigation, which is expected to come up with long-lasting solutions.

Opening the Tuesday’s session, Adv. Mkhwebane explained that the focus of this year’s NGGW went to the heart of the vision (Vision 2023) that will guide her office’s operations over the course of her tenure as Public Protector.

Anchored on eight pillars, Vision 2023 is about making the kind of impact, on governance in state affairs that will be felt at the grassroots.

It involves ensuring far-flung communities’ access to the Public Protector, communicating with such communities in their mother tongues, expanding the reach of the Public Protector through additional service points and entering into Memoranda of Understanding with other institutions to advance the Public Protector’s plans in this regard.

It also seeks to turn the Public Protector South Africa into a safe haven for the poor, empower people to know their rights, encourage state organs to establish effective internal complaints resolution mechanisms and ultimately empower people to be their own liberators and Public Protectors.

“We want to be a stronghold for the poor and the marginalised. The key issue that I want us to address is service delivery related complaints,” she said, adding that 80% of the complaints that reach her office yearly were service delivery-related.

The NGGW is an initiative of the Public Protector through which the institution seeks to promote good governance and integrity in all state affairs.

This flows from the constitutional mandate of the Public Protector to “investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper of result in any impropriety or prejudice; report on that conduct; and take appropriate remedial action.”

NGGW is observed this month to coincide with and mark the anniversary of the establishment of the Public Protector South Africa, which came into being in October 1995.

Issued by

Ms Cleopatra Mosana
Cell: 072 321 7585
Tel: 012 366 7006

Published Date: 
Tuesday, October 24, 2017