IN response to Mahlubonke Makunga's article ("To rescue local government – travel back in time", September 14), besides using old functioning local government systems, we should stop that nonsense of taking all important decisions at national level and asking local representatives afterwards to rubber stamp these decisions.
The government created for itself in '94 an impossible situation by keeping the apartheid overly centralised and industrialised system, but at the same time designing local government which should together with communities define an "integrated development plan (IDP)".
As an IDP should be all inclusive and based on informed community needs, it does not make sense that all major policies and large local developments (such as the Petro SA refinery, CDC and nuclear plants) are decided by the national government. The first problem is that the government did not review the apartheid economic system which allows large interests to drive policies and major national expansion.
Local development remains therefore secondary to the national one and large investments spread across the country are mainly meant to feed large interests concentrated in the centre. A genuine IDP fully based on the local needs is therefore not possible in this context.
The second problem is that the ward committee has been allowed in all this nonsense (of ill-made party deployment and patronage) to be hijacked by the party power struggle. It is therefore questionable that ward committees represent (when they still exist) the majority of the community.
The third problem is the lack of willingness to inform and empower communities for them to take adequate decisions.
It is therefore doubtful that local governance will improve drastically if these contradictions are not resolved. A new paradigm based on localisation for a real decentralisation should be designed.
This could practically be based on three overall principles: low carbon development; local development for the local people, by the local people and with local resources; and bottom up approach.
It is advisable to move from the concept of "climate change" because it is too restrictive and misleading to a broader notion which could be called "low carbon development". This would frame adequate climate change responses, including local development because they are mainly related to the necessary decrease of carbon production.
But this would more importantly place responsibility on all sectors and therefore force a close sectorial co-operation because development is everybody's responsibility. This should therefore resolve the predominant tunnel vision between sectors, which impedes sustainable development and fosters vast waste of resources.
For example, the municipal health and environment directorate is trying to put up together a policy on "green procurement" for the municipality. It recognises the importance of climate change, and localisation of products and services.
It has severe difficulties in having these issues adequately discussed and politically recognised across all municipal directorates. They are still being told by other directorates that "climate change and environment are their own and exclusive responsibility"!
It should be clear that the environment, climate change and a sustainable development definition cannot be the baby of an isolated directorate. As nature shows, the base of sustainability is in fact the interrelation and interdependency between numerous elements.
In the same way sustainable development can exist only if we manage to recreate interrelation, interdependency and synergies between the various sectors.
This directorate has reached a deadlock. It should recognise and make known that it cannot fulfil adequately its mandate to "promote a sustainable development" if it cannot get the relevant stakeholders on board. This is compounded by the fact that we have allowed ANC pre-election tension to take hostage normal or even critical developments in the city.
A drastic new development paradigm should be debated urgently at municipal level. Principles related to localisation of production and all resources including manpower and all other low carbon development needs should be the principles of this new paradigm and therefore be debated.
If agreed, this localisation policy would logically question all national interference in the definition of local development plans.
A real decentralisation and development based on local needs cannot happen without a real bottom up approach. To be able to define adequately their own integrated plans, communities should be empowered to do so and adequately be represented. But presently both of these conditions are not fulfilled and even will require a concerted effort to be responded to.
Whenever the power is restored to the people, a careful educational programme should then be designed to empower people to use that power wisely and elect their right representatives. This is another large hurdle that will also require a fair amount of political will, commitment, skills and experience.
It is time to recognise that the tentative plans to "turn around local governments" (besides leaving these authorities dizzy) have had little results. This will remain until we resolve the above mentioned contradiction.
Two years ago the municipality requested anyone to submit a vision document for the municipality. For whatever reason this process has collapsed and we have been told that our "submission (from the Transition Network) will be taken over by another directorate which is going to restart the process".
This is believed to be a clear indication of our municipality's submission to party politics before people's interests.
PL Lemercier, Port Elizabeth