Minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. Picture: GCIS/ELMOND JIYANE
Minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. Picture: GCIS/ELMOND JIYANE

The dire state of municipal finances was expected to take centre stage at the cabinet’s lekgotla that kicked off on Thursday.

This comes as the country prepares for local government elections, expected to take place between August and November.

In her first briefing as the acting minister in the presidency and cabinet spokesperson, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the government should not neglect municipalities, which represent the coal face of service delivery.

“What is also critical is the discussion around the state of municipal finances,” Ntshavheni said. “We know the challenges we face in our municipalities, and municipalities remain the tier of government that is closest to the people. Therefore, we cannot continue to neglect the state of their finances.

“We need to make sure that when the elections take place, the new municipal leadership will come into sound organisations that are able to deliver services.”

Ntshavheni said the cabinet meeting will receive presentations on how the government is performing when it comes to the delivery of basic services, such as water.

Acceleration of job creation at local government level is also likely to be discussed. “On day three, we’ll have a dedicated focus on the local sphere of government, so that we can say what things have to be done to make sure that sphere of government is able to render services,” Ntshavheni said.

Another likely subject at the meeting is the budgetary constraints and how the government should prioritise its programmes. Though the ANC has given the government a mandate on various issues, Ntshavheni said, the procurement of the vaccine remains the key focus.

“So the government must prioritise, depending on what the budget can cover. The priority we are very clear on is getting vaccinations to the majority of South Africans so we can attain herd immunity,” Ntshavheni said.

“I’m sure all of you are aware that the governing party has given us certain mandates, and it remains the responsibility of government to prioritise those mandates because we live in an environment in which our fiscal outlook is not very good.” 

The ANC national executive committee lekgotla last week tasked its deployees in government to look into extending the R350 Covid-19 relief grant for unemployed people and the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) for workers laid off because of the lockdown.

Recipients of the grant have also pleaded with the government to extend the payment of the grant, which was discontinued in October.

This weekend, the government will discuss where the money for the R350 grant could come from. ​“What the governing party has indicated to us is that it understands there are budgetary constraints,” Ntshavheni said.

She said that, regarding Ters, the ANC has said the government must negotiate because negotiations are going on with the minister for employment and labour in Nedlac, the bargaining council and the relevant forums.

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