President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday called on fellow South Africans to “rebuild trust and communication” between communities and their local government leaders for improved service delivery.Writing in his weekly newsletter following the voter registration weekend and ahead of the local government elections set for 1 November, Ramaphosa said it was the responsibility of publicly elected officials to have an open line of communication with the communities they served.
He said accountable and accessible leadership was key to a well-run local government authorities capable of good service delivery in the country.
The president said during his visits to Mpumalanga province and Soweto over the weekend, local residents had highlighted that in the run up to elections candidates standing for positions in council are often full of energy and listened to their service delivery issues.
However, once they were elected to those positions, “they either disappear or it becomes difficult to reach them,” Ramaphosa said.
He said this lack of effective communication often created a chasm between municipals and the people they served which cascaded into flare ups in service delivery protests.
An example of this was the current electricity problems faced by communities in Soweto whose electricity was cut-off without clear explanations to them, he said.
“When people are deprived of the basic services without proper explanation of why this has happened or how it is being fixed, it erodes public confidence in local government,” Ramaphosa said.
He added: “Sometimes people think that the only way to get the attention of those tasked with the provision of services is through violent protest.”
Ramaphosa emphasised that it was the responsibility of publicly elected officials to have an open line of communication with the communities they represented to create smooth operations.
Citizens, on other hand, also have a responsibility not to damage public infrastructure or to access services through illegal means, adding that they “must use their vote to deal with councillors with poor track records.”