THERE is a tendency to single out cadre deployment and President Jacob Zuma's poor leadership as the only causes of financial mismanagement in local governments.
Even municipalities under the DA rule are not well managed – the City of Cape Town did not receive a clean audit, a blow to Helen Zille.
Local governments compete with national and provincial spheres, as well as the private sector, to attract competent municipal managers and chief financial officers.
Incorruptible, qualified financial managers leave local government for suitable and professional environments in the private sector, which also pays better than the public sector.
Local governments' failure to retain skilled officials led to the introduction of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa. In no way am I suggesting the private sector is not corrupt. Politicians cannot be corrupt without being tempted by entrepreneurs and tenderpreneurs.
Linked to poor financial management is a lack of technical skills in engineering, especially civil and electrical competencies. KwaDukuza Municipality was forced to employ a chemical engineer who could not even finish his probation and was expelled for attempting to solicit a bribe.
This municipality was forced to contract consultants to accelerate municipal infrastructure grants.
Some of our municipalities are not viable; the sooner we amalgamate them, the better. We must also seriously look at building capacity at district levels and incrementally phase out cumbersome provincial governments, which are mainly conveyor belts than implementing agents.
We must reject Zuma's analysis that poor governance, as well as service delivery, is a result of apartheid. People know that we cannot achieve a non-racial, non-sexist and well-oiled state in 19 years. What they reject is the aloofness of leadership, a corrupt state and the mismanagement of the public purse.
They see the bling lifestyles of politicians when they live in squalor.
In the Ilembe council, where I live, there has been a spike in the employment of relatives, friends and spouses of councillors.
Intake in the fire-fighting and disaster management departments will make salaries exceed 35% of the operating budget. Friends of ward councillors are employed in projects, deepening kleptocracy.
A promise to force ward councillors to report, at least, once in three or four months is not implemented, thus creating mistrust between the governors and the governed.
When I was a councillor in KwaDukuza, we agreed that, after a road, school, hall or houses were completed, service providers must equip people selected by a ward committee with skills or leave a structure for a community. This is how we constructed offices for Aldinville School and a sports field. Today, officials and politicians ask "what is my share?" before awarding a tender. Some officials and politicians solicit bribes under the guise of fundraising for a party in power.
They take 90% and give the party 10% or nothing. That is why it is a lucrative job to be a municipal manager, mayor, speaker, regional secretary, chair or treasurer.
Other than the Manase report, KwaZulu-Natal MEC Nomusa Dube has tried her best – go to the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, rot stinks everywhere.
Any corrupt leader, or party, cannot advance clean governance, it's like expecting the US to stop manufacturing arms used in the Middle East.
Financial mismanagement in local government is an indictment on the leadership of Zuma, whose R206-million Nkandla palace stands gumtree high above all scandals.
Such a transgression of ethics inspires the looting brigade to sing "whatever we do, we do it with Msholozi as an exemplar of the abuse of power". These lootocrats find warmth beneath his wings. I do not understand how corruption thrives in government when Cosatu claims to be revolutionary?
Siyanda Mhlongo, KwaDukuza