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Today marks twenty-five years since South Africa saw its first local government elections on November 1st, 1995.

Posted: 01 November 2020

Today marks twenty-five years since South Africa saw its first local government elections on November 1st, 1995.

And as we gather to reflect on this long and storied history, we are reminded of the words of South African statesman Nelson Mandela during his State of the Nation Address on 17 February 1995.

“The challenges ahead of us require that we move away from spectacle and rhetoric and bend our backs to the serious work ahead of us.”

With local government being the closest sphere of government to the community, we dare not falter on this mandate to improve and expand the delivery of services to all who live in this nation.

The November 1995 elections, which were held across the country with the exception of KwaZulu-Natal province and portions of the Western Cape, where elections were held in early 1996, paved the way for the end of a fragmented, undemocratic and racially-based local government, and the beginning of a modern democratic local government system with clear developmental objectives. 

Throughout the month of November, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), will be reflecting on this transition and the events that shaped it. We will also be reviewing the lessons learned from this period in order to path the way forward.

Compatriots, local government challenges persist, but this sphere of government has made significant strides over the last two and a half decades. Municipalities have been able to deliver basic services to millions of people who did not have them before.

The latest Statistic South Africa (Stats SA) non-financial census of municipalities report, bears witness to this. The 2018 study showed that the number of households receiving basic services from municipalities increased significantly compared to the previous year.

The highest percentage increase was recorded in the provision of water (3.7), followed by sewage and sanitation (3.6%), electricity (3.1%), and solid waste management (2.4%).

It further emphasized that 13.3 million consumer units received water services from municipalities in South Africa, 11.9 million received electricity, 11.7 million sewage and sanitation and 9.9 million received solid waste services. 

However, these statistics reflect the lived experiences of only a portion of the South African populace. Ours is to see improvements in the quality of life for all citizens of our nation.

In pursuit of this noble cause, we must redouble our efforts to realize Madiba’s wise and guiding words, both in letter and in spirit.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recently unveiled economic stimulus and recovery plan, which will have to be implemented under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, requires all sectors to roll up their sleeves and work together to stabilize and grow this economy. 

And Local Government will assuredly remain on the frontlines of this challenge. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to assure all South Africans, that SALGA will never tire of playing its role in closing the service delivery deficit, in rooting-out corruption and in improving transparency, monitoring and accountability in municipalities.

At the same time, please join SALGA and local government in celebrating 25 Years of Local Government.

Cllr Thembi Nkadimeng
SALGA President

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