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Stimulating economic growth in local government

- Wits University

Collective professional and technical skills can stimulate economic growth in local government says Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) delivered the keynote address at an Economic Forum debate hosted by the School of Construction Economics and Management at Wits University.

The debate took place in the Senate Room, Solomon Mahlangu House on 2 October 2018.  

Mkhize discussed various interventions that CoGTA is currently pursuing to create a functional and developmental local government system. 

Mkhize said that CoGTA has prioritised “governance, financial management, infrastructure development, service delivery, and fighting fraud as well as corruption”. He reaffirmed the commitment of the South African government to support and improve the capacity of municipalities. 

Zanele Serame, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Mashilo Pitjeng and Eric Manchidi

“Stimulating economic growth in local government will be achieved through the utilisation of the collective professional and technical skills bases. Without a joint effort, it will be difficult to realise the economic growth rates necessary to address persistent unemployment, poverty and the high inequalities,” said Mkhize. He further emphasised the need for ethical leadership from local government.

Other panellists included Mashilo Pitjeng, Managing Director at TseboREAL Asset Management; Zanele Serame, Chief Quantity Surveyor at the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development; and Eric Manchidi, former President of the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions. 

Pitjeng said that local government could achieve a number of important key outcomes for their communities. He presented a strong view that municipalities should start sharing best practices and improving the way in which they collaborate with other local government entities to improve service delivery. He also highlighted the importance of delivering local government infrastructure towards the ultimate vision of giving communities a sense of hope and pride.

Prof. David Root, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Mrs Busisiwe Mpembe, Dr Sitsabo Dlamini and Prof. Ian Jandrell

On the subject of capacity-building in local government, Serame said that the necessary skills required to create a functional local government sphere depend largely on government’s ability to improve the education and skills of local government employees. This is particularly important in under-resourced areas in the country, said Serame.

Manchidi raised some of the challenges experienced by regulators in the built environment in transforming their professions to support technical capacity in the local sphere of the government. He indicated that the public-private partnership (PPP) framework in South Africa is outdated. “With some improvements, PPPs can offer innovative ways for municipalities to deal with some of the infrastructure challenges they are facing”, said Manchidi.

The event attracted individuals from various disciplines and professions including Professor Ian Jandrell, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at Wits, and Professor David Root, Head of the Wits School of Construction Economics and Management. Root outlined the vision and mission of his School as a centre of excellence for built environment research and education.