President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended government's district development model (DDM), but the official opposition says his evasive answers raises the suspicion of a power grab plan.
In July, the Democratic Alliance (DA) announced a government official leaked a "top secret" draft document from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which proposed centralised control of municipalities through a structure similar to the National Coronavirus Command Council.
But in reply to a written parliamentary question from DA MP Cilliers Brink, Ramaphosa said the DDM was a practical intergovernmental relations mechanism for all three spheres of government to work jointly and to plan and act in unison.
"The DDM calls for collaborative planning at district and metropolitan level on the basis of a detailed, technically-driven consultative process within government and with communities and stakeholders. It is intended that this should result in a single integrated plan for each of the 44 districts and eight metropolitan municipalities in the country. These plans will be implemented in line with existing prescribed development, departmental, strategic and annual performance plans for which each sphere and state entity is responsible," Ramaphosa said.
He said a decision to introduce district champions was discussed and agreed to by the President's Coordinating Council in May.
District champions included ministers, deputy ministers and senior government officials. The DDM was currently piloted at the OR Tambo, eThekwini and Waterberg municipalities.
"(They) are meant to work with local, regional and provincial leadership to coordinate our response to Covid-19, avoiding duplication and wastage of resources. This is an enhanced form of integrated service delivery, meant to serve the people better. To address the scourge of gender-based violence, Cabinet added this area to the mandate of the district champions. It is incumbent on all of us to work together to respond to the challenges people face in a holistic and comprehensive manner," Ramaphosa said, adding that the model drew from the 1998 white paper on local government.
Brink said Ramaphosa avoided commenting on the reference to the top-secret document.
"He fails to say whether he has seen the document, whether it comes from a government source, or whether he agrees with its substantive proposals. The president could have used the opportunity to say in clear and simple terms that the document doesn't represent the plans or the policy of his government. His evasiveness suggests the opposite," Brink said.
"If the top-secret document isn't an elaborate hoax - if discussions inside the Ramaphosa administration are, in fact, animated by plans of a new command and control system of government - then South African people deserve advance notice."