Delivering better city services

Janine Erasmus

The City of Johannesburg – South Africa’s largest city, located in the smallest province – took top honours in the Metropolitan Municipality category at the 2007 Vuna Awards ceremony. Runners up were eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban, and the City of Cape Town.

The Vuna Awards, an initiative of the national Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG), rewards top-performing municipalities for good governance and brings these achievements to the attention of a wider audience.

The question of municipal service delivery continues to make news headlines, with disgruntled communities demonstrating their displeasure and dissatisfaction at the often-poor standard of service delivery through protests and even violence. However there are many municipalities that strive to render the best service possible to their constituents. This is where the Vuna Awards comes into play.

The 2007 Vuna Awards, held in early December, saw representatives of municipalities from every part of the country converging on Gallagher Estate in Midrand – 141 entries were received in total from all over South Africa.

Smaller municipalities were also praised for the quality of their service delivery. In the Local Municipalities category, Swartland in the Western Cape scooped the award, followed by Steve Tshwete Local Municipality, encompassing Middelburg and located in the larger Nkangala District Municipality in Mpumalanga, and Umngeni in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. In the District Municipality category, Bophirima, the westernmost of the four districts of North West Province, came out tops, followed by the West Rand in western Gauteng and Ugu, one of the 11 districts of KwaZulu-Natal, which tied for second position.

Key performance awards were handed to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in the Eastern Cape, which encompasses the city of Port Elizabeth on the shore of Algoa Bay; the award was given for service delivery and infrastructure. Nelson Mandela Bay also tied with eThekwini for the Local Economic Development (LED) award, while the latter made off with the Financial Viability award.

Johannesburg took the Institutional Development and Municipal Transformation award as well as the award for Good Governance and Public Participation. Other winners were the Umngeni Local Municipality, Maruleng in the Kruger Park region of Limpopo, Overstrand in the Western Cape, which includes the whale-watching capital of the world, Hermanus, and Emalahleni in western Mpumalanga, which includes Witbank.

Among district municipalities the top achiever was West Rand, with Sedibeng in southern Gauteng and Bophirima jointly taking the award for Service Delivery, and Bophirima taking the Good Governance and Public Participation award as well. In addition, Mpumalanga province’s Nkangala District Municipality and the West Rand District Municipality took the LED and Financial Viability awards respectively. The Steve Tshwete Local Municipality was the most improved Project Consolidate Municipality. The national Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Department of Minerals and Energy, and Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism were recognised for supporting local government.

Established in 2003 and held annually since then, the Vuna Awards (“Vuna” is an Nguni word which means “reaping”) is a partnership between the DPLG, the South African Local Government Association (Salga), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the National Productivity Institute (NPI).

The objectives of the Vuna Awards, as stated by the DPLG, are to recognise and reward excellence in service delivery and raise the standard of service from municipalities by encouraging creativity and innovation in service delivery, and to promote good local governance. The benefits, says the DPLG, will be seen in media coverage for the winners, opportunities to exchange their experiences with other municipalities on various aspects of municipal service delivery and governance, and technical assistance in critical areas such as economic development and projects management.

Speaking at the 2007 ceremony, Minister of Provincial and Local Government Sydney Mufamadi lauded those municipalities who have given their best service to their communities, saying that “These are 141 municipalities who correctly believe that the benchmarks set by previous participants are open to betterment in 2007 and beyond.”

Mufamadi went on to quote figures provided by Statistics South Africa, revealing that the number of South African households with access to clean water has increased from 59% in 1994 to 88% in 2007, the number of households with access to sanitation has increased from 48% in 1999 to 78% in 2007, and that from 2004 till the present the number of households with access to electricity has increased from a paltry 30% to today’s count of 59% for heating, 67% for cooking and 80% for lighting.

”The accomplishment of, and the due recognition we give to the municipalities, as well as to the best helpful provincial and national government departments represent our attempt to show, in the most enduring way possible, that we have no intention to lose our developmental sensibilities. We are determined to stay on course on the road to a better and worthy future,” concluded the minister.

Useful links