Date: Jul 5, 2021 Type: Country:

South Africa: Now is the time to demand dignity through service delivery, accountability and transparency

As South Africa enters its second week of level four lockdown, millions of people do not have access to essential services, such as water and sanitation, that could help safeguard them from Covid-19.

Chapter 2 of the South African Constitution recognises the right of everyone to adequate housing and access to sufficient food and water. Additionally, as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, South Africa is duty-bound to uphold the rights to housing, water and sanitation among other human rights.

It is shocking that after 27 years of freedom, millions of people in South Africa still do not have access to these services, all while the state of the country’s municipalities continues to deteriorate. 

Last week, Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke tabled the local government audit outcomes for the 2019/20 financial year, which showed that the state of local government was deteriorating and that mechanisms to prevent accountability failures, or to deal with them appropriately “do not exist”. 

According to the Auditor General, municipalities have racked up R26-billion in irregular expenditure, and R3.5 billion has been lost to fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and only 27 out of 257 municipalities have received a clean audit. This while millions of people are still living without clean, accessible drinking water, safe sanitation and adequate housing, among other issues.

“It is shocking, particularly during a global pandemic, that money which should be used to provide essential services to uphold human rights and protect people’s health, is not, and yet no one is being held accountable for this,” Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director, Shenilla Mohamed, said to mark the launch of the organisation’s #DignityNow campaign. 

“In recent times, the standard and quality of essential service delivery across the country has largely been weakened by corruption and the mismanagement of public funds. This is happening at the expense of people living in South Africa, who are constitutionally entitled to have their basic needs met and to live with dignity. It has been 27 years of freedom and still many have to go without adequate housing, sufficient water for drinking and domestic use, and safe sanitation. The government needs to fix this now, and we, as the people, need to demand that this happens now,” Mohamed said.

“With the upcoming local government elections, South Africans have the opportunity to make their  voices heard.”

Amnesty International South Africa’s #DignityNow campaign calls on the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to ensure that all municipalities fulfill their constitutional mandate to provide basic services to everyone in South Africa by prioritising: 

Accountability: To commitments made at all levels of local government to ensure the equitable delivery of basic services. This includes monitoring the progress of municipalities in reaching service delivery goals by being responsive to the needs of communities, creating opportunities for active community participation and providing services in a timely, progressive and sustainable manner. 

Transparency: To ensure there is accountability for the abuse of power and the mismanagement of public funds at all levels of local government during the pandemic and going forward. This includes prioritising reforms that improve financial management systems; hiring skilled personnel; ending impunity for crimes of corruption; promoting good governance and access to information, particularly when it comes to decision making.  

Access to information: To ensure that municipalities adhere to the legal requirement to consult with communities and provide information and feedback on budget and plans. This includes running robust awareness campaigns on accessible platforms that promote the active participation of communities.

Background

Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke on 30 June 2021 tabled the local government audit outcomes for 2019/20 which showed little sign of improvement. The outgoing administration inherited 33 clean audits, but this has now regressed to only 27 clean audits.  

The Auditor General has before put forward solutions to the crumbling state of local government but as Maluleke points out, her office has “not seen evidence of these messages being taken to heart”.

News24 reported that on 22 June 2021, Maluleke briefed parliament on the 2019/20 municipal audit outcomes where she noted that only 27 municipalities out of 257 across the country received clean audits for the 2019/20 financial year. She said municipalities relied on short-term and costly solutions to compensate for the lack of financial management and reporting skills, while supervision and monitoring were not taking place.

Maluleke told Parliament that there was total neglect of internal control disciplines, resulting in financial and operational collapse, weakened governance, and a lack of accountability.

Take action here and call on the South African government to give people #DignityNow.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Amnesty International South Africa’s Media and Communications Officer Genevieve Quintal on +27 64 890 9224 or email genevieve.quintal@amnesty.org.za