Johannesburg - One of the challenges by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is that they have tried not to be litigious around issues of non-compliance by local governments.
SAHRC CEO Tseliso Thipanyane said if one looked at the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) reports, over the past five years, over 100 municipalities did not submit reports to the commission.
“Then we ask ourselves if we should chase after everybody or not. That will take a lot of time. We simply send the reports to Parliament and hope that portfolio committees can raise concerns,” said Thipanyane.
He said they were a small organisation of about 200 people and their budget was R200 million. As a result, they couldn’t spend much of their money pursuing people, but they tried to motivate people. It was only under difficult circumstances where they turned to courts.
They were aware that court cases could take long. It should be the last resort.
Thipanyane was speaking during a webinar by the SAHRC and the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) on local government service delivery through infrastructure development and management.
Thiphanyane said the ultimate mandate of the SAHRC was to ensure that it strengthened democracy and protected human rights.
“Our mandate has been to promote and protect human rights. Over the years, we have been monitoring the human rights situation in the country in terms of section 184 of our mandate.
“There has been a number of concerns as far as what happens in local government. We have received a number of complaints around some of the challenges in local government. We are fully aware that the Constitution, in terms of section 152, provides for the role of local government as far as democracy and human rights are concerned,” he added.
Thipanyane said the commission received annual reports from local government entities on the extent to which they complied with PAIA. Also on finding ways to allow greater involvement by community and organisations in matters of local government.
“We have had problems around water, sanitation and corruption. As a commission, we are trying to help improve the situation in local government. That is what we are here to do to make sure aspirations of our people are realised as provided by the Constitution,” said Thipanyane.
Thipanyane said it was important that now there was a new five-year local government phase starting. He said the commission needed to commit itself to say “after five years, what improvements have helped to achieve good governance at local sphere for the people”?