Open letter to Mayor De Lille: The Essence of Democratic Local Government

 
Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance  
Email:  alliance@gctca.org.za  ¦  Website: www.gctca.org.za

 

5 June 2013

Honourable Mayor Patricia de Lille

Cape Town

Dear Madam Mayor

The Essence of Democratic Local Government

Our Association has been made aware of a document entitled Proposed Amendments to Systems of Delegations for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning (EESP) Matters, which was due to be tabled as agenda item C69/05/13 at your Council meeting on 29 May 2013, adjourned to 30 May 2013. As you know, the purpose of this item is, amongst other issues, to remove the authority of subcouncils to deal with any land use planning matters other than the naming of streets.

We understand that this item was in fact withdrawn from the agenda of your 30 May Council meeting and welcome this decision, as from our reading of this document we are reminded of the worst aspects of Communist philosophy with its belief in the centralization of control of all aspects of government, with total disregard for the views of the populace in whose name it purports to govern – the very antithesis of democracy and its belief in the rights of a population to partake in matters affecting their daily lives, which the Democratic Alliance party, to which you belong, says it embraces.

We note that the expressed purpose of these proposed amendments, quoting Sec. 59(1) of the Municipal Systems Act No 32 of 2000 in support, is to ‘maximize administrative and organizational efficiency’; an argument often put forward by bureaucrats wishing to accrue more personal power in their working environment. In this case it is noteworthy that the intention is to concentrate 99% of the decisions concerning economic, environmental and spatial planning matters affecting the running of the City of Cape Town in one official’s hands: the Executive Director: Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning [ED (EESP)]. Virtually all the delegated powers previously granted to lower ranks in this individual’s directorate have been taken away. In our opinion it will be quite impossible for one person to sensibly make the enormous quantity of decisions that this proposed system will entail. We appreciate that the ED (EESP) can delegate certain functions to others, but the final decision and responsibility remains with the person in charge. The recommended system of delegations will result in precisely the reverse of the stated intention of the change; it will result in unimaginable administrative and organizational inefficiency.

We also note that to gain your approval the author of this proposal states that this centralisation of power, disguised as ‘revised systems of delegations’, will support your “Red tape to red carpet’ initiative. We suggest that, if introduced, these changes will severely damage the City’s carefully promoted image as a Caring City and the Democratic Alliance’s claim to open, transparent government. In the whole suggested system there is no intention to refer any land use planning matter to any interested and affected party; only to the owner of any land unit affected. The report writer appears determined to prevent any public participation which might thwart a plan devised behind closed doors in the City Council but not seen by the community concerned to be in their best interests.

May we remind you that Sec. 152 (a) of the South African Constitution states: The objects of local government are to provide democratic and accountable government for local communities.

Furthermore, Sec. 4(2) of the Municipal Systems Act states: The council of a municipality, within the municipality’s financial and administrative capacity and having regard to practical considerations, has the duty to:

(b) provide, without favour or prejudice, democratic and accountable government;

(c) encourage the involvement of the local community.

Concentrating in one official’s hands all power of decision regarding matters central to local communities’ lives, such as land use planning, without any involvement of the people concerned, is the converse of democracy.

Democratic and accountable government for local communities entails public participation in the exercise of local government.

To take away the delegation to subcouncils of the power to review a land use planning application and hence remove the ability of Interested & Affected Parties to comment on such applications is to deny the essence of democratic local government.

If there is a return to the undemocratic government and denial of the rights of citizens to public participation in decisions affecting their lives, as enshrined in the Constitution, which marked the ANC’s reign in the City of Cape Town, then you can be sure of the loss of many, many votes for the DA in the next elections, in less than a year from now.


Yours faithfully,

LenSwimmer

Chairman

 

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