Mnquma Local Municipality, Koukamma Local Municipality, Alfred Nzo District Municipality: Section 139 Interventions

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Meeting Summary

The Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs explained that there were eleven municipalities requiring immediate support. He described the situation in Mnquma Local Municipality, Koukamma Local Municipality and Alfred Nzo District Municipality that had led to Section 139 interventions. Koukamma Municipality was co-operating with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Alfred Nzo District Municipality had requested intervention and was co-operating with the Department. However, the Mnquma Municipality was a different situation, as there was a fierce contestation of the intervention. There had been three court challenges stalling interventions in Mnquma Local Municipality. The latest court challenge by them was on 15 May 2009 and a decision was still pending.

The Committee agreed that they had to find a way in which they could intervene in the Mnquma Municipality case. Members cautioned that matters had to be resolved immediately even if the problems were inherited from the previous administration. The Chairperson then closed the meeting to the public so members could discuss their plan of action for Mnquma Municipality.

Meeting report

Briefing on Section 139 Interventions in the Eastern Cape
Mr Sicelo Gqobana, the Eastern Cape Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, informed the Committee that eleven municipalities were identified as requiring immediate support and intervention. He would focus on three municipalities that were prioritised in terms of Section 139 of the Constitution.

He stated that there were court challenges stalling interventions in Mnquma Local Municipality. The Koukamma Municipality was co-operating with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (DLGTA) and Alfred Nzo District Municipality had requested intervention and was co-operating with the DLGTA.

Mr Gqobana discussed Alfred Nzo Municipality. An administrator had been appointed on 20 April 2009 and its responsibilities included financial management, corporate services, infrastructure development and Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funding. Currently, the municipality was experiencing cash flow problems. The use of the MIG fund was being dealt with, a forensic investigation had been sanctioned and a Financial Recovery Plan (FRP) would be developed.

An administrator was appointed to Koukamma Municipality from 29 April 2009. Its areas of responsibility included financial management, corporate services, infrastructure development and public participation. A FRP would be developed; however, currently the municipality was experiencing cash flow problems.

The Mnquma Local Municipality was a different situation, as there was a fierce contestation of the intervention. So far, there had been three court challenges. The last court challenge was on 15 May 2009 and a decision was still pending. Differences in legal interpretation and in disputed facts resulted in legal challenges. This affected the financial resources of the municipality and time expended in court battles undermined service delivery. Besides having financial implications, there were implications for inter-governmental relations [see document].

These challenges were a lesson that interventions carried out within the context of promoting sound inter-governmental relations, aimed at enhancing service delivery and promoting good governance was a legal necessity. A fine balancing act was required.     

Discussion
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would be dealing with issues arising from Section 139 (1)(b) and (c).

Mr M Makhubela (ANC, Limpopo) stated that the Committee needed to find out how they could intervene in the Mnquma Municipality matter.

Mr B Nesi (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked what happened to councillors once municipalities were dissolved. He also wanted to know if it would be in the interest of the province if the Committee visited the three municipalities.

Mr Gqobana stated that the Eastern Cape would welcome the presence of the Committee. They would be happy for the Committee to visit the municipalities so Members could make their own observations. 

Mr Johann Mettler, Project Manager: South African Local Government Association (SALGA), stated that Section 139 of the Constitution said that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) should advise as to the continuation of the interventions. This role could not be over-emphasised. Section 139 (1)(b) was about the assumption of responsibilities while (1)(c) spoke about the dissolution of the council. Once a council was dissolved, an election would be held to replace the council. The Committee had to oversee this process as well as the checks and balances. There would always be political, intergovernmental and financial implications. The Committee should engage with the municipalities, anticipate any problems and see how matters could be resolved.

The Chairperson agreed, saying it was important to see what role the Committee would play, going forward.

Mr T Chaane (ANC, North West) was concerned that the Mnquma Local Municipality was using their limited resources to challenge the dissolution. The Committee had to do something about the matter; they could not just wait for the court’s decision.

Mr D Bloem (COPE, Free State) agreed. He stated that the Committee should treat this report as a briefing document. He added that the Committee had to discuss what they wanted to do and what their programme of action would be. The decision could not be taken at this meeting; the Committee had to meet privately to decide what they would do. This was an urgent matter.

Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) asked if there was any approval given by the NCOP to enact Section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution before the court’s approval.

Mr Gqobana stated that they did not try to intervene while they did not have court approval.

The Chairperson cautioned Mr Gqobana that matters had to be resolved immediately even if the problems were inherited from the previous administration. The Committee would discuss ways in which they wanted to move forward with the matter.

The meeting was then closed so Members could discuss privately their plan of action in terms of intervening in the matter.     

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