The Committee met to discuss the findings of recent oversight visits, and received briefings from the leaders of the three delegations. The delegation doing oversight in the Western Cape said the main challenge they faced was a lack of communication between the different sectors of government. The delegation doing oversight in the Eastern Cape had found themselves caught up in political tension within the municipality. The friction stemmed from the fact that the local municipality felt that the Chief Whip kept interdicting them on everything they tried to achieve within the community, and there was inconsistent information given by the municipality that did not match what the delegation had found on the ground. A key problem arose in relation to houses and informal settlements, where six toilets were being shared by about 649 people, with the municipality failing to honour its sanitation arrangements. Communication was lacking between the spheres of government. The delegation conducting oversight in Mpumalanga had found problems in support between local municipalities and provincial government, and incomplete contracts that indicated corruption and fraud, without anyone ever being held responsible for it. The relationship between the district and local municipalities, with both provincial and national departments was a critical area in which the issues must be identified and dealt with.
Members suggested that in future, there should be clarity on who had been invited, so that they could be held accountable for attending. When officials from the national departments attended, they should be engaging more proactively with the issues. It would be useful to have interpretation facilities. Members felt that local government councillors should be consulted, and for this purpose the Speakers should be notified of the visits. The Speakers and Chairpersons of Provincial Legislatures should be invited, as it was useful to have delegations from these accompanying the Members. It had emerged that lack of coordination and communication was a major issue, and communities were feeling dissatisfied largely because they lacked the correct information. Blatant lack of communication was also identified, particularly in Western Cape, between local and national government. Party politics tended to overshadow delivery to the people of services on the ground. Relationships between local and district municipalities and national and provincial government needed work.
Members noted that they would like to receive briefings from the Department of Public Works, Department of Transport, Department of Health, and Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, as well as a report back on the findings of the Auditor-General on implementation of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Recent Oversight Visits
The Chairperson said that the aim of the meeting was for Members to raise any questions or concerns they might have about the oversight visits.
Ms M Wenger (DA) said that she would like to make a contribution on the visit the delegation had made to Mpumalanga. The final meeting of this delegation was very participatory, because there were members of the community present as well. However, members of the public were not present at the previous two occasions. She thought that for the Ad Hoc Committee to be successful, Members would need to hear from the residents what their issues were that required them to participate in the discussions. She said that when the Committee sent delegations to the next communities, they should make sure that the communities were present at the public hearings.
Mr P Matheba (ANC) said that he would like to take the opportunity to commend his delegation’s leader, Nkosi Mandela, who guided the delegation very well and who conducted the meetings in a very professional manner. He also said that when the Committee went on to public hearings in future, it must be careful not to have these turned into a rally.
Mr W Doman (DA) said that he was one of the members who went to the Eastern Cape. He said that this delegation had a very successful visit as well as able leadership. He said he was very satisfied because everything was well organised. However, he had two issues to mention. The first issue was the official liaison or communication from this Committee to the provinces. In the Eastern Cape the provincial government was absent. That was problematic, and could not be addressed because nobody knew whether letters had been sent from this Committee, via Parliament, to the provincial government. The municipality officials also complained that they never had that co-operation.
The second issue was that the Committee was privileged to have officials from the National Department accompany them, but there was no engagement between them. The officials should not be attending simply for the sake of doing so, or merely to listen. They needed to be more actively involved, and had to ask and answer questions.
Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC) asked whether there was enough money in the budget for the delegations to have interpretation assistance on their oversight visit. It took some time to wait for a person to finish speaking before having it interpreted. It was important for communities to be able to speak in their own languages.
Ms G Borman (ANC) said that she agreed with Ms Nhlengethwa’s suggestion. She said that it was very important for the delegations to see local government councillors, as they could also assist the delegation on their oversight visit. She would also like to thank their leader, Mr Sizani, who had led the Western Cape delegation, particularly for his leadership during the public meetings.
Mr M Waters (DA) said that he would like to refer to what Ms Borman said about Councillors being invited. It was very important for the Speaker of the Councillors to be notified. He or she was supposed to be informing the Councillors so that they could be present. He thanked the Chairperson for the work he did in his delegation’s public meetings, as these were handled very well.
Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) said that the provinces pointed at the main key problems around service delivery. It was clear as to which national sector departments should be in the meetings. When his delegation went to Mpumalanga, there were officials from the sector departments of Energy, Education and Human Settlements and when problems were raised that fell under those departments, the questions could be answered. He suggested that wherever the delegations went, the sector departments should be present. Part of the problem was lack of co-ordination and co-operation. The communities raised issues simply because they did not have the correct information, which resulted in the demobilisation of some of the forces due only to ignorance. It was very useful to have the appropriate departments present in the meeting. It was also very useful to have stakeholders present.
The Chairperson asked if the two leaders of the delegations could comment on any emerging recommendations, after which the Chairperson himself would comment on behalf of the delegation which he had led. He would also ask the Secretariat to speak about the invitations and where they were addressed, as also to talk about the leadership in the areas visited.
Feedback on the oversight visit to the Western Cape
Mr P Sizani (ANC) said that in the Western Cape there were three basic problems. The first one was the delayed solution to the communication problem between the Premier and the Committee Chairperson and subsequently to the Mayor of the City of Cape Town. It was very difficult for the Mayor to communicate effectively with the Councillors.
The second problem was that there was a blatant lack of communication between the local government, provincial government of the Western Cape and the National Government. It became very clear that the Mayor, after the communication issues were resolved, had made commitments that were never honoured. It was not an exaggeration to say that the informal settlements in the Western Cape were a disaster in waiting. If the swamps were not washed clean by winter rain, cholera would arise in the Western Cape. There was no infrastructure in the informal settlements. The children played in dirty water. Waste sanitation was a huge problem. The community had eventually pleaded that if the Members could help them connect and communicate with National Government, it would make their situation much better. The delegation undertook to facilitate the request.
The final issue was around service delivery in their areas. Party politics, and not concern for the lives of the people on the ground, seemed to be the main priority. It was a great shock to him that party politics were entering into everything. In some cases people sold houses and toilets to residents.
Feedback on the oversight visit to the Eastern Cape
Mr Z Mandela (ANC) said that his delegation had investigated two municipalities. One of the major challenges was to find themselves caught up in political tension within the municipality. On the first day the Members were taken to a fire department, with about five to six Councillors (out of 81 who were supposed to be present). The municipalities were faced with many challenges of a political nature, mostly around party politics. After having moved on with the briefing by the municipalities, the delegation found that there was a split in the governance of the municipality. The divisions resulted in the Mayor and the municipal manager being on the one side, and the Chief Whip on the other. The Mayor enjoyed the support of 42 members and 31 of the council were in favour of the Chief Whip. The friction was that the Chief Whip kept interdicting the municipality from everything they tried to achieve within the community. The delegation had asked key questions on service delivery. The municipality assured the delegation that it had been doing work, and delivering to the people. However, during the delegation’s site visit the following day, the things that the municipality had spoken of were nowhere to be found on the ground. One of the key examples was the bucket toilet systems. When the members went to an informal settlement they found a community of about 649 people sharing six toilets. The municipality was supposed to service those toilets every Tuesday and Thursday, but the toilets were left un-serviced for a month at a time, which resulted in living conditions that were unacceptable.
Another problem the delegation saw related to other spheres of government within the provincial departments. The municipality was taken to court by the Department of Education for not rendering services on electricity. Fortunately they had members from the provincial government that intervened and assisted in the matter.
One of the major challenges that the Mayor and the municipality faced related to corruption and fraudulent cases. The disturbing issue was that no liability was being attached to those fraudulent cases. The delegation sent out a strong message that municipalities should move towards ensuring that closure was reached on those cases and ensure that they were dealt with in the harshest manner possible.
With regard to housing, the delegation heard that some of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses they saw were being given out. Some of the houses were being sold for R10 000. It was also discovered that multiple houses were owned by one family. In a particular case two brothers owned four or five houses in the same area, which defeated the purpose of those houses. People used some of the houses as bed and breakfast accommodation, whilst others were being rented out.
Feedback on the oversight visit to Mpumalanga
The Chairperson said that there were problems which included interesting support work between the Local Municipality and the District. There was a problem in support between Local Municipalities and Provinces that emerged in the Mpumalanga municipalities. The delegation found out interesting things about contracts for infrastructure, which included housing. The incomplete contracts were an indication of corruption.
There was a lot of work that needed to be done around action charges. The delegation was accompanied by national departments and in areas where they asked the National Department to speak, information was provided to communities. The Department of Housing and the Department of Energy were present. The delegation explained to these departments that they should provide information about projects and problems in that area, and this was done. There was also a problem with communication and information. For some of these people the information that the administrators provided was information being heard for the very first time.
The relationship between the district and local municipalities, and with the national and provincial government, was a critical area where issues must be identified so that they could be dealt with.
Administrative issues arising from the visits
The Committee Secretary said, with regard to the National Department, that letters were sent even before the first leg of public hearings was held. This letter indicated that the National Department should send delegates to attend the meetings in order to respond to issues that would arise involving the national departments. As a result, the Department of Energy, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Education were present. Letters were also sent to South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the national traditional leaders.
Mr M Mdakane (ANC) said that he thought the issue of the legislatures would be raised.
The Chairperson said that in Mpumalanga the Chairperson of the provincial Legislature had received the delegation, and until the end of the meetings, the Committee’s delegation was accompanied by people from the provincial legislature, which was very useful, as the Legislature was given an opportunity to respond to some of the issues relevant to provinces. The Departments dealing with Energy, Land Affairs and Human Settlements were present throughout the meeting. They were also given an opportunity to speak. In the presence of stakeholders, they themselves said that they had no issues with Department of Social Development and that they were doing their job.
The Chairperson thought that in future the Speaker and the Chairperson of the Legislature must be invited, so that they could accompany the delegation and provide them with a briefing.
Mr Mandela said that it was crucial that the relevant departments should be present when the delegations visited, since it would then be possible to address them directly on the matters raised, and an immediate report back was readily available. That needed to be emphasised to the departments.
The Secretariat then briefed the delegations on what their schedule would be from the day they left till the day they returned (see document).
The Chairperson said, in respect of the Free State Team, that SALGA had been invited to the engagement and the public hearings.
Other Committee business
The Chairperson said that he would like to ask the Department of Public Works (DPW) and Department of Transport (DOT) to the Committee. They were the official “landlords” of government, and those who worked with the municipalities, so from a service delivery point of view it was important to interact with them.
The Chairperson noted that the Auditor-General was attending to a roadshow in relation to the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) audit findings in the Provinces. At the end of March, the findings on the MFMA should be shared with the Committee, so that discussion by the Committee of those findings could be included in the Committee’s work.
Mr Mdakane said that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform should meet with the Committee before the report was finalised.
Mr Mandela said that the Department of Health should also meet with the Committee.
The Chairperson asked noted the dates of the next oversight visit and said that as far as possible the same composition of the delegations should be retained. He would be going to Gauteng.
The Chairperson noted that some Members were not part of the Committee when it had met with some departments. The Committee must invite some of the departments to receive their recommendations, as well as the Auditor-General and try to finish the Report before May.
The meeting was adjourned.
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