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The involvement of communities in municipal affairs is not only a key objective of local government but it is also one of the main reasons for South Africa’s choice of developmental local government, Johannesburg Executive Mayor Cllr Parks Tau said in Ramallah, Palestine, at the weekend.

Mayor Tau was one of key speakers who addressed an international conference of local authorities in solidarity with the Palestinian people under the theme: “United for Palestine.”

The other presenters included Robert Serry, the United Nations’ Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process and Albert Schröter, Mayor of Jena, Germany.

More than 100 key figures from around the world attended the conference to demonstrate their support for the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom. The United Nations General Assembly last year declared 2014 as the Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Speaking under the topic “The Rise of Development Local Government in South Africa – Lessons for Palestine Local Authorities”, Mayor Tau said in 13 years, local government in South Africa had emerged from being an institution that was subservient, racist and illegitimate to an institution with democratically elected leadership, constitutional status and a developmental agenda.

The Executive Mayor provided the context of how apartheid negatively impacted on South Africa’s human settlements and municipal institutions and how a democratic local government was established.

He said developmental local government was characterised by four imperatives: maximising growth and social development, integrating and coordinating, democratic development and public participation, leading and learning.

Mayor Tau said ultimately the intention of developmental local was to create a developmental service delivery model to:

 Improve financial planning, management and control;
 Structure mechanisms of accountability;
 Create a basis for an efficient administration; and
 Enable strategic political leadership by improving the decision-making system and clarifying the political-administrative interface.
“Clearly, the new system of local government [in South Africa] is more powerful, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and developmental than the previous one,” the Mayor said.

“It also stands at advancing the national democratic transition. It serves to take forward our task of transforming the state identified in our various election manifestoes and to give a new edge to debates about a developmental state.”

But he warned that for this system of local government to continue to work, there had to be a huge investment in capacity building of councillors, officials and the community,” the Executive. Mayor said.

“Certainly, national and provincial government departments, the South African Local Government Association, the local government sector education and training authority, non-governmental organisations, municipalities themselves, educational institutions and other organisations need to contribute,” he added.

At the closing of the conference, delegates endorsed the formation of an international network for solidarity with the Palestinian people. The main objective of the network will be to mobilise international political, economic, social and cultural support for Palestinian local authorities.​