The call by the South African Local Government Association (Salga) in KwaZulu-Natal, to demand that mayors be more hands-on in terms of improving the performance of their municipalities is commendable.
Mayors should never be seen as just political figureheads who do not want to get their hands dirty.
They are being remunerated at salaries which are matched to their level of responsibility and as such should be taking accountability at a high level which should translate to an improvement in the lot of those who live in their municipalities, rather than just attending meet and greets and hosting political get-togethers or driving around in fancy cars with a cohort of bodyguards.
Salga wants mayors to show that they are making headway in paying their municipalities’ debts to Eskom and also that they keep monitoring the performance of their chief financial officers, which should be beyond reproach.
This is crucial to the success of any organisation which handles a large amount of money through transactions coming in and out, especially if this revenue is expected to maintain and enhance service delivery.
It is clear there are problems in this field across many municipalities which are not being adequately addressed, as people refuse to pay for services, but are provided with services anyway.
As municipalities cut back on paying for the services they incurred for things like water and power, debt to entities like Eskom and Umngeni-uThukela Water keep piling up, jeopardising the work these important entities need to do to keep the lights on countrywide and the water flowing out of taps on a district level.
Salga also wants performance agreements to be implemented so staff are held to account.
This is paramount for service delivery, from the employees who sweep the streets to the top managers of departments and the municipal manager. Now mayors must act and do what they’re being paid to do.