Statement on demonstration at Local Government Summit

Monday 28 February 2005 by Dale



The South African Local Government Summit (which kicks off later today in Benoni) is being presented as an opportunity for all relevant organisations and constituencies to come together to discuss, debate and arrive at common positions on the way forward for local government in our country. However, the truth of the matter is that the Summit will be dominated by government bureaucrats and outside ‘experts’, even though the two unions who organise at local government level - SAMWU & IMATU - will be participating. Representation from the rest of South African ‘civil society’ has been restricted to a few organisations (such as SANCO) that are allied with the ANC government. Independent community organisations and social movements, such as the APF, the Anti-Eviction Campaign and many others, who have been consistent in raising issues/awareness of service delivery problems, corruption and maladministration at the level of local government especially in the poorest communities and who represent sizeable constituencies, have been completely shunned despite repeated (formalised) attempts to be represented.

What this means is that the Summit itself will, like so many other summits before it, will be conducted without meaningful participation from key, mass-based community organisations/social movements who have been at the forefront of addressing local government issues/problems. Indeed, it is clear that the organisers of the Summit (the South African Local Government Association - SALGA) have no desire to include any voices that are critical of government policies and who have been struggling, in poor communities, to try and address the very real crisis that exists around service delivery. It should be self-evident that such an approach, which the ANC government has consistently followed in dealing with community organisations/social movements outside of its political control, will only lead to outcomes that will not, and cannot, address the needs and demands of poor communities or go very far in finding serious solutions to the crisis that exists at local government level.

This situation has left the APF with no other option other than organise for our voices to be heard outside of the formal Summit proceedings. No doubt, the Summit organisers will try and deligitimise our protest and argue that organisations such as the APF do not represent meaningful constituencies and are simply ‘trouble-makers’ - that is to be expected. However, SALGA and the ANC government cannot run away from the real voices of poor communities, the realities of increasing opposition to privatised/ corporatised service delivery and the institutional crisis facing much of local government in South Africa. Our voices will be heard!!

* DIRECTIONS TO SUMMIT VENUE - Take the R24 highway towards Johannesburg International Airport then follow the R21 highway towards Kempton Park off-ramp. Take next off-ramp (Pomona), turn right at traffic light. Follow this road (R32) for 7.5km (through four sets of traffic lights and a stop street). About 400m past the stop street, turn right into GlenGory Road. The venue (Kopanong Hotel & Conference Centre) is down the road on the left.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION/COMMENT CONTACT: Trevor Ngwane on 083 293-7691 or Dale McKinley

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