Politics

Cyril Ramaphosa slams neglect of communities by elected leaders

Cyril Ramaphosa slams neglect of communities by elected leaders

President Cyril Ramaphosa has lamented the neglect of communities by elected leaders who resurface when it is time for electioneering. 

In his weekly news letter on Monday after a weekend of election campaigning, the president emphasised the importance of accessible, visible and reachable local government for swift solutions to service delivery challenges and disruptions or failures occurring.

The president, through interactions with communities in Soweto and Mpumalanga at the weekend, was met not only with service delivery complaints but voids left by elected leaders who disappear after elections.

“Citizens often complain that in the lead-up to elections, ward councillors, candidates and officials are energetic, interacting with communities and listening to their concerns. However, once elections have passed, they either disappear or it becomes difficult to reach them.

“A number of people in the communities I visited told me municipalities are slow to attend to their problems, don’t keep communities updated about disruptions, and when services are cut off for nonpayment, fail to inform them of their options in a manner or language they understand,” said Ramaphosa. 

The president’s sudden call for prospective councillors to rebuild and maintain trust in communities even after the elections has been slated as disingenuous.

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir said the matter was a historical problem and Ramaphosa could not act as a spectator while president. 

“He has been president of the party [ANC] since 2017. I don’t understand how he could have been unaware and only speaking against this now,” he said. 

According to Fakir there is a bigger problem with Ramaphosa’s statement. This relates to the proposals for electoral reforms following a Constitutional Court ruling that the country’s Electoral Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that it doesn’t allow citizens to be elected to the national and provincial legislatures as independent candidates.

The existing electoral system has attracted extensive criticism for rendering elected representatives unaccountable to those who elected them.

“When there's an opportunity and the Constitutional Court advises electoral reform, what is his own party saying?” Fakir asked. 

“When there’s any number of electoral models available in which you can retain and balance the power of parties with the power of ordinary citizens, his party is opting for a maintenance of the same system because they say retain the system to make sure you accommodate independents,” Fakir added. 

Ramaphosa has said public representatives need to be out in communities, listening to people’s concerns and resolving their problems.

“A common refrain from communities, and something I heard again over the weekend, is that engagement with ward councillors starts off well but diminishes steadily over time.

“When local government is efficient and well-run, it provides the foundation people need to improve their living standards and find opportunities,” said Ramaphosa. 

He said when local government fails to provide services – including water, electricity, sanitation, housing, education and healthcare – the impact is immediate and profound.

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