Several municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal are finding themselves in the firing line—as government now looks at taking severe steps against nonperforming municipalities.
This follows the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), urging the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) provincial government to be unafraid of dissolving municipalities which are not improving—even if they are under administration according to Section 139 (1)(b) of the Constitution.
The committee expressed this view in a meeting with the KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sipho Hlomuka, during an oversight visit to assess the state of the municipalities in the province.
Chairperson of the committee, Faith Muthambi stated, “If we are serious about good governance, we should be able to take difficult decisions. We can’t be bogged down by being afraid to take difficult decisions; even though the prevailing conditions of those municipalities are clearly affecting service delivery and negatively impacting the lives of the people. Why are we afraid to implement 139 (1)(c)?”
In a statement released on 7 October 2020, it was said the committee heard that despite the interventions, six of the nine municipalities under administration received negative audit opinions for the 2018/19 financial year.
Looking at these municipalities, Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality received an adverse audit opinion. Umzinyathi District (Dundee area) and Mpofana Local municipalities received disclaimer audit opinions.
Richmond, Uthukela (Ladysmith area), Msunduzi and Mtubatuba local municipalities received qualified audit opinions.
The provincial government acknowledged that some municipalities are facing challenges which may suggest they should be dissolved. However, it is essential to highlight that due to political instability in those municipalities, dissolving them would be virtually impossible.
Hlomuka elaborates, “In some cases, even when we dissolve, the same councillors are re-elected, perpetuating the same challenges experienced before. Also, if litigated against, the province must provide proof that enough support was given to a specific municipality.”
The committee also raised concerns about four municipalities under administration, all of which are still in debt to Eskom, which negatively impacts on Eskom’s ability to function.
The four are: Abaqulusi (Vryheid) Local Municipality, owing R11 million; Mpofana Local Municipality owes R197 million; Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality owes R15 million, and Msuduzi Local Municipality owes R108 million.
Furthermore, the committee was also apparently alarmed to hear only three of the nine Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs) are functional in the municipalities under administration, according to Section 139.
The committee learned that MPACs are either partially functional or dysfunctional in the other six municipalities under administration—Muthambi emphasises, “This negatively impacts the ability of the municipality to investigate occurrences of unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and undermines governance of the municipality and its ability to undertake effective consequence management against those in the wrong.”
Despite these challenges, the committee welcomed the cooperation between KZN’s Treasury and Cooperative and Traditional Affairs’ Departments in supporting the municipalities according to Section 154 of the Constitution.
The committee explained that the provincial government must strengthen Operation Sukuma Sakhe, which is intended to ensure a coordinated approach to challenges in the province. Furthermore, the committee called for the improvement of service delivery and for effective management of the municipal’s financial resources, to ensure the municipalities meet their constitutional obligations.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you feel the Portfolio Committee on Cogta is justified in wanting these municipalities dissolved? Or do you feel dissolving them will cause further issues in the long run?
Share your views with us in the comment section below.
Author: Quinton Boucher
Edited: Calvin Swemmer