The Municipal Demarcation Board presentation consisted of an introduction, a recap from the previous briefing, performance in the current financial year, 2013-2018 Strategic Plan, 2013 Strategic Priorities, 2013 Annual Performance Targets, Medium Term Expenditure Framework, challenges and concluding remarks.
The last briefing by the MDB was on 10 October 2012 when it presented its 2011/12 Annual Report. The question of whether traditional council boundaries resided within the Board’s mandate came up. It had been established that this competency rested with the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs. The Committee advised the Board to involve constituency offices in public participation, especially in rural areas, which the MDB noted.
Between June 2011 and October 2013, the Board was busy re-determining municipal boundaries. Between November 2013 and June 2015, the Board would be busy with delimiting wards. From July 2015 to April 2016 it would prepare for elections.
In its performance against its broad work programme, the MDB was on schedule. It planned to conduct 33 public meetings and 5 formal investigations by May 2015. The processes for May to August 2013 include formal Section 28 hearings where necessary, the publishing of Section 21 notices for objections, the closing date for Section 21 objections and decisions on the objections.
The MDB has prioritised public participation as a critical part of its work. Each board member was responsible for public participation in a province and it would happen from April 2013. It would be communicated to local communities, constituency offices, via local radio stations and national newspapers.
Stakeholder engagement and public participation had been improved significantly. District or regional meetings were held for all municipal boundary requests. All Houses of Traditional Leaders, MECs for local government and all Premiers were briefed on the demarcation programme.
1 028 cases in total had been considered by the Board. The department had spent R27 million out of R31 million allocated for the third quarter ending in December 2012.
On its Strategic Plan 2013-2018, MDB's first Strategic Objective was to determine and re-determine boundaries for local, district and metropolitan municipalities. The second was to delimit wards for all local and metropolitan municipalities for the 2016 local elections. The third was to the assessment of the capacity of metropolitan, district and local municipalities. The fourth was to ensure good governance and sound financial management. The fifth was a Board supported by effective and efficient organisation, organisational processes, systems and practices. The sixth was sound stakeholder relations. The MDB then detailed the Annual Performance targets for 2013 for the Programme 1, Programme 2 and Programme 3 Board.
In terms of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, the MDB said that government was determined to reduce spending over the next three years by implementing baseline reductions. This meant that the MDB would lose R2.7 million over the next three years. It based salary increases on CPI+1%. Its projected expenditure for 2013/14 was R47 134 000, for 2014/15, R49 940 000 and for 2015/16 R51 289 000.
MDB challenges were an inadequate staff complement; a lack of research capacity resulting in inadequate and limited stakeholder management; its dependence on consultants for strategic projects and a mismatch of the Board's work programme with budgeting cycle. As a concluding remark, the MDB stated that it wanted to be funded directly by Parliament instead of indirectly through the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Members asked whether the Board was really independent from political interference and influence and what it did to ensure its independence; what the Board needed in terms of staff, and whether consultants were not the better option in this case, as the board’s work was seasonal, by its own admission. Members asked why the MDB had surpluses since 2008, while it complained about not having enough funding to fund in–house research staff. Members asked why municipal borders should change and what the criteria was for the Board to change a border. Members asked which organ of government had the mandate to change the borders of traditional areas and provinces, if it did not reside within the competence of the MDB. Members wanted to know why the MDB would prefer to be funded directly by Parliament instead of via the Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs as was the case currently.
As only the SALGA deputy chairperson and not the chairperson was present at the meeting, the Committee refused to hear its presentation on its Strategic Plan. Apologies had not been tendered in writing. The Committee Chairperson said the Committee stood by her statement that there was no functional working relationship with SALGA. SALGA was not communicating with the Committee and was constantly undermining the Committee. She wanted this put it on record.
The SALGA deputy chairperson claimed SALGA did not disrespect the Committee, but was operating under restrictions which included officials who had full time positions within municipalities. He felt offended by the fact that the Chairperson did not recognise his status, although they had attended meetings and shared platforms at party level before. He felt offended by the way in which the Chairperson addressed him. He was present at almost all the meetings the Committee had convened.
The Chairperson noted the 21 March was Human Rights Day, and from 16 to 24 March was also South African Library Week. On a visit to a library, she found the information outdated and mostly in Afrikaans. It was a challenge to resource those libraries. She encouraged members to adopt libraries in their constituencies and supply them with information from Parliament.
Introducing the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB), she said that it was an independent body which derived its powers from the Constitution, which meant that anybody who interfered with its work was contravening the law.
Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) presentation on its Strategic Plan 2013-2018
Performance to date
Mr Landiwe Mahlangu, the Chairperson of Demarcation Board, said the board’s term would end at the end of February 2014 and he wanted to raise issues the Committee had to pay attention to. He wanted to address matters of continuity and want to put it into context.
The Strategic Plan had to be seen against the background of what the board was currently busy with, which was renewing the outer boundaries. The MDB operated under challenging circumstances. The MDB was seeking guidance from the Committee as to how to handle its challenges. Independence of the MDB had to be discussed as well and he wanted to explain his understanding of this.
Mr Alusani Ramagadza, Executive Manager: Operations and Research, MDB, presented the Strategic Plan in which he provided an introduction, recap from the last briefing, performance in the current financial year, 2013-2018 Strategic Plan, 2013 Strategic Priorities, 2013 Annual Performance Targets, Medium Term Expenditure Framework, and the challenges.
The last briefing by the MDB was on 10 October 2012 to present the 2011/12 Annual Report. The question of whether traditional council boundaries resided within the Board’s mandate came up in that meeting. It had been established that this competency rested with the Department of Land Affairs. The Committee had advised the Board to involve constituency offices in MDB's public participation efforts, especially in rural areas.
Between June 2011 and October 2013, the Board was busy re-determining municipal boundaries. Between November 2013 and June 2015, the Board would be busy with delimiting wards. From July 2015 to April 2016 it would prepare for elections.
In its performance against the broad work programme, the MDB was on schedule (see presentation). It had to conduct 33 public meetings and 5 formal investigations by May 2015. The processes for May – August 2013 included formal Section 28 hearings where necessary, the publishing of Section 21 notices for objections, the closing date for Section 21 objections and decisions on the objections.
The MDB has prioritised public participation as a critical part of its work. Each board member was responsible for public participation in a province and it would happen from April 2013. It would be communicated to local communities, constituency offices, via local radio stations and national newspapers. Between 9 and 26 meetings per province had been held so far with a total of 119 meetings as part of the consultative process (2011-2012). Stakeholder engagement and public participation had improved significantly. District or regional meetings were held for all municipal boundary requests. All Houses of Traditional Leaders, MECs for local government and all Premiers were briefed on the demarcation programme. 1 028 Cases in total had been considered by the Board. 204 Section 26 cases had been published for public comment. Reasons for cases to be rejected were stated as: proposal to align to a magisterial boundary, no concurrence and no compliance to legislation. 22 cases were closed, 102 had to be re-determined, 80 were to be the subject of a formal investigation and 21 were cases for public meetings.
The department had spent R27 million out of R31 million allocated for the third quarter ending in December 2012. It went through a breakdown of the line items (see document).
Strategic Plan 2013-2018
The first Strategic Objective was to determine and re-determine boundaries for local, district and metropolitan municipalities. The second was to delimit wards for all local and metropolitan municipalities for the 2016 local elections. The third was to the assessment of the capacity of metropolitan, district and local municipalities. The fourth was to ensure good governance and sound financial management. The fifth was a Board supported by effective and efficient organisation, organisational processes, systems and practices. The sixth was sound stakeholder relations.
Strategic Priorities for 2013/14
- On-going review of municipal boundaries
- On-going assessment of municipal capacity
- Planning for the delimitation of wards in 2014/15
- Re-organisation of the institutional administrative structures
- Enhancement of stakeholder relations and communication
- Enhancement of operations through national and international studies
- Maintenance and improvement of governance structures and
- On-going compliance with relevant legislative and regulatory requirements.
The presentation further detailed the Annual Performance targets for 2013 for the Programme 1, Programme 2 and Programme 3 Board (see presentation).
Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)
Government was determined to reduce spending by the MDB over the next three years by implementing baseline reductions of 1%, 2% and 3%. In terms of this reductio,n the MDB would lose R2.7 million over the next three years. Since 2008, the Board had surpluses. For 2011/12 it was R3 304 000. It based salary increases on CPI+1%. Vacant positions budgeted for on the new organisational structure were budgeted for as three-year contracts. Its projected expenditures for 2013/14 was R47 134 000, for 2014/15, R49 940 and for 2015/16 R51 289.
Challenges were an inadequate staff complement and a lack of research capacity, resulting in inadequate and limited stakeholder management. Other challenges were the institution’s dependence on consultants for strategic projects and a mismatch of the Board work programme and budgeting cycle.
As a concluding remark, the Board stated that it wanted to be funded directly by Parliament instead of indirectly through the Department.
Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) said the MDB had highlighted lack of research capability. He was involved in a very technical submission made to the MDB regarding Ethekwini ward boundaries. The submission pointed out to the MDB where its own demarcation criteria had not been followed. The response he received from the MDB was not a technical one. It basically said that "this was how it was going to be". He asked who was responsible for technical replies to submissions like the one he submitted. Was this one of the areas where capacity was lacking? He felt whoever made a well-researched submission, was entitled to a rational and reasoned response to their questions.
Mr Steenhuizen said that Section 1(b) of the Municipal Demarcation Act stated that: “The board may obtain by agreement the services of any person, including any organ of state for the performance of any specific act or function”. Did the MDB approach research institutions which were organs of state like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to augment its research capability?
Mr Steenhuizen asked whether it was not better for the MDB to use consultants. There was much pressure to demarcate before elections, which made the work seasonal. It needed high-level GIS and planning skills which were extremely expensive. Was there enough on-going work to justify permanent employees with these skills? Had a cost-benefit analysis been done to determine what would be the more cost effective option - consultants versus permanent employees?
Mr P Smith (IFP) said the decision to use consultants was deliberate, because the work of the MDB was by its own admission seasonal. The work peaked every five years when the MDB had to demarcate wards for voting purposes and it seemed appropriate to outsource seasonal work. He did not understand the problem.
Mr Mahlangu, MDB Chairperson, said two years ago he tabled research that the MDB commissioned in this Committee to try to expand the meaning of some of the criteria the MDB had to follow as set out in Section 25 of the Act. The MDB had to take into account existing and projected trends. Research needed to be on-going, meaning the work of the MDB was not seasonal.
If one looked at what was contained in Section 25, the work could not be done in two weeks. It was not true that the Board’s work was seasonal. The MDB needed to hire consultants for the election season, when the work peaked, but the work needed to be on-going. In terms of the work cycle, the MDB started two years before elections with ward division.
Mr G Boinamo (DA) said the MDB indicated that it had appointed consultants. He asked whether the MDB did not have people capacitated to do what the consultants were doing, because consultants were expensive.
Mr Mahlangu replied that a lack of capacity did not mean that the MDB could not do its work. He talked about in-house core capacity the MDB should have had. This point was tied to the use of consultants. The decisions of the MDB always had to be informed by research, thus, the MDB needed core research capacity.
Mr Smith referred to Slide 18. It showed that 55% of the expenses of the MDB went to employment costs, which was fair. He asked whether this percentage included consultants, and if so which percentage went to consultants.
Mr Smith referred to Slide 17 where the presentation stated that R13 million had been budgeted for employee costs, but only R10 million was spent. The reason given was that people had not been employed. This did not sound like a very efficient approach.
Ms W Nelson (ANC) wanted clarity on the reduction and research capacity located in-house versus outsourcing. The MDB wanted a reduction on outsourcing for research, but at the same time, research still needed to be done. The head of Stakeholder and Media Relations post was vacant. How did the MDB reconcile these facts?
Mr J Matshoba (ANC) referred to Slide 41 and said it was not the first time the Demarcation Board told the Committee that there was only one fulltime board member. He asked the MDB to be specific about what it needed to staff itself so that it could function well.
The Chairperson asked what the impact was on public participation if the MDB had only one fulltime member and one member per province who served in a part time capacity.
The Chairperson said the legislation was formulated from the viewpoint that the work of the MDB was seasonal. This resulted in a lack of in-house capacity on the MDB, forcing it to use consultants, which was expensive. This was linked to the Auditor-General's performance audit finding that government spent R102 billion on consultants during the last three financial years.
The Chairperson also took cognisance of Mr Steenhuizen’s question on research capacity and said the Committee would recommend that there had to be a fulltime staffed research unit for the MDB.
Mr Steenhuizen asked the MDB to unpack what it perceived as a mismatch of its mandate in terms of the legislation and how MDB would like to see it addressed.
Mr Mahlangu said if one looked at what was intended in the legislation in terms of criteria, and one looked at the Municipal Structures Act, the one that actually outlined the criteria for the metros, these processes needed a lot of ground work. One needed cutting edge knowledge in terms of special analysis and one needed to come with credible evidence to make decisions. When one weighed up the magnitude of the work against the small staff of the MDB, there was a mismatch.
Mr Steenhuizen said one of the key essentials for the MDB, particularly because of the sensitive political nature of the issues it dealt with, which had to be vigorously defended, was its independence from the executive and from political organisations.
He found the events in Sasolburg extremely disturbing where a member of the executive came in and ‘stopped’ or ‘suspended’ a process which was underway. This sort of intervention was unwarranted. He wanted to know what steps the MDB was going to take in future to defend its independence, so that there would be assurance that when decisions were made, they were made for technical reasons in terms of criteria as prescribed in the Act and not for other reasons.
Mr Smith said there was a perception that the MDB was not independent. It purported to be independent, but when it was convenient, it aligned itself with another view. This was not independence. Before the last municipal elections, the MDB came up with a list of new metros it wanted to establish. They were named as well. When "Party A" said it did not want the metros, the MDB then said it would delay it.
Mr Smith commented that the way Sasolburg was perceived was that the MDB was involved in a process, somebody got upset, the MDB was told to stop the process, and the MDB obeyed and stopped the process. This perception was damaging the credibility of the MDB and the MDB had not done anything to redress that perception. He thought it crucial for the MDB to unequivocally state in the public space where it stood on these decisions.
Mr Boinamo asked to what extent was the MDB independent of political influence.
Mr Mahlangu said he understood the perspective explained by several members who raised the issue, but he wanted to explain how the MDB saw independence. The MDB could not stop people from saying what they thought about matters. It was their views. The MDB’s decisions were not influenced by a change in the preference of the supposed sponsors of that proposal. It was a decision that the MDB took, based on its criteria and on technical grounds. There were many technical issues to take taken into account. Independence was the only thing the MDB had and it had to defend it.
The Chairperson asked what happened in Sasolburg.
Mr Matshoba said politicians blamed other people whereas politicians failed to do their jobs. In the case of Zamdela, Sasolburg, he thought it was the lack of information which caused the conflict. Overnight, groups of people appeared who called themselves ‘concerned residents’. They mobilised people to go and burn and loot. Politicians should inform its constituencies and not blame the MDB.
Mr Mahlangu said the Sasolburg incident needed debate. The reality was that the MDB was at a stage where it was going to invite the community for their views on the MDB's proposed determination. The Metsimaholo residents asked for an audience with the MDB and he met with them personally. He challenged the Committee to ask Metsimaholo residents for their views on the proposal. He was confident that the residents would say that the MDB was the most objective.
As to what happened in Sasolburg, Mr Mahlangu said the Minister was well-intentioned to make sure that the situation was brought under control. The joint statement by the Minister and the MDB, which Mr Steenhuizen referred to, had to be looked at rather from the angle of "the spirit in which it was said" than its legal implications. The statement was legally relevant, because it did not affect how the MDB operated. The MDB did not stop its process. It was continuing investigations and getting the views of communities. It planned to have a public meeting afterwards. The MDB verified that its processes were still correct and it would continue with the process. The MDB had 17 major cases. His view was that Sasolburg had features that were unique. If demarcation was the only problem, there should have been 17 explosions. There was only one.
Mr Steenhuizen said the independence of the MDB was crucial. On the MDB website there was no statement of independence. The Minister issued a joint press statement after the Sasolburg incident. There was no independent statement from the MDB. Today the MDB stated that it was independent and that the process continued, but in his view this was not independence, but being a lackey to what the Minister’s whims and wishes were.
Ms Nondumiso Gwayi, Deputy Chairperson, MDB, said the joint statement was issued at a time of violent protests. The MDB and the Minister wanted to be sure to quell the violent protests, but the MDB had a meeting after that with the Minister where it stated that as the MDB, it had to continue with its work. It was mixed in with the process of outer boundary determination, which was another important part of the work of the MDB. This process required lots of engagement and participation. The MDB independently issued another statement after the joint statement with the Minister, where it indicated what it was doing. The MDB also engaged with its stakeholders to indicate what it was doing.
Mr Mahlangu replied that different people would interpret the events in Sasolburg differently. One did not want to see this kind of thing happening. The MDB had a meeting with the Minister. Both parties were clear about what the statement meant. The MDB had to make a statement that ultimately it was the Municipal Demarcation Board which made the final decision. This statement was repeated by the Minister. The joint statement referred to was problematic. Another statement was made by the Minister. And the MDB subsequently met with the Minister. Letters were written regarding what the MDB thought its role was. The MDB had to restore its image, and overcome the perception that it was not independent. When it came to issues of independence, he wanted to assure the Committee that the MDB was independent and would remain as such. It had been tested before and found to be independent.
Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) said what the MDB reported sounded good, but if so much work went into consulting with communities on where borders should be, why were there uprisings? One would find that most problems the communities had, had come through decisions of the Municipal Demarcation Board. Small communities were drowned by large communities. Councillors had problems. Councillors had a raw deal, because of the way wards were demarcated. He did not think proper consultation took place. To his knowledge no community was happy with the the Municipal Demarcation Board. He believed that the MDB did not do enough research on the ground and directly in the communities.
The Chairperson asked how the MDB went about informing the affected parties after the 22 cases had been closed, and whether these parties wholeheartedly accepted the outcomes of the decisions of the MDB.
Mr Mahlangu replied that during the 2001 ward delimitation round, the majority of wards were products of consensus. The level of awareness which the MDB created was part of the reason for the good turnout for local government elections. The MDB was satisfied that it did a good job in that instance.
Mr Smith referred to the last bullet point on Slide 42. It said the resources of the MDB could not sustain what it had to do. It also said that the MDB wanted to receive allocations directly from` Parliament instead of via the Department. He did not see a link between the quantum of money the MDB would receive and where it came from. Did the MDB think that Parliament would be more generous, because it could apply its mind better to the needs of the MDB? He did not think that reasoning was necessarily correct.
Ms Nelson wanted the MDB to explain its proposal for being funded by Parliament instead of by CoGTA.
Mr Mahlangu replied that the issue was not whether the Board would get more funds, but that it would enhance the status and influence of the MDB if it was accountable directly to Parliament. As a board, it would symbolically raise the status to be really independent. Other than that there was nothing wrong with the current arrangement.
Mr Smith asked how the MDB could be short of funds when it had had a surplus every year since 2008, according to Slide 35.
Mr Nick Ligege, MDB Chief Financial Officer, replied that a call had been made to National Treasury. The MDB wanted to do things better, but did not have enough money. It was trying to use the surpluses to fund the public participation processes over the next three years. Research and public participation had to be enhanced.
Mr Smith referred to Slide 14 which stated reasons why cases were rejected or closed. It stated that: …the Department of Justice is in the process of aligning magisterial boundaries to the current municipal boundaries as per Cabinet Resolution of 1998”. The statement was made that one could not align municipal boundaries with magisterial boundaries, because Cabinet said fifteen years ago that it had to be the other way around. What was the current position in respect of fifteen years of implementation of a Cabinet decision?
Mr Smith, still referring to Slide 14, referred to the second reason cases were rejected or closed, given as: "No concurrence”, “ …all affected stakeholders were not in support of the proposal(s)”. He said the MDB was an independent body, but what this statement meant in practice that it made decisions in consultation, not after consultation. It vacillated. Was the MDB independent or not? As he saw it, the MDB could make decisions whether communities liked the decisions or not.
Mr Mahlangu replied that the reason there was talk about the alignment of wards, was that the MDB rejected cases where the intention was to undo the current boundaries to align them to magisterial districts. It was true that it had to be the other way round. Municipal boundaries had to be aligned with magisterial districts.
Concurrence was a difficult issue. First prize the MDB would want in every case was an agreement. If one changed a boundary, one affected another municipality. The MDB did not want to seem expansionist by adding pieces to one municipality at the expense of the other. In some cases those proposals were not properly canvassed. One could not continue with such proposals, because one had to understand what informed it.
The MDB was also guided by its criteria. There had to be agreements with affected municipalities. The MDB did not like to impose decisions on municipalities
Mr Boinamo said the MDB had indicated that delimiting boundaries in traditional areas was not within its competency. Who was responsible for that then? The presentation revealed that consultations were done before decisions to set boundaries. He wanted the MDB to explain how it handled the case of Matatiele. There were uprisings, lives were lost and businesses looted and destroyed. It showed that the people’s views were not respected.
Mr Mahlangu replied that the MDB had no mandate do delimit provincial boundaries and traditional area boundaries, because the maps of traditional areas were determined on a different basis altogether. In the past, the MDB in cooperation with the Department of Justice tried to produce credible boundaries on an advised basis. Traditional boundaries were determined differently. The MDB had proposals where it was asked to deal with the traditional boundaries. The MDB respectfully said it could not deal with these boundaries unless they were municipal boundaries.
Mr Mahlangu added that Matatiele and other cases were lessons the MDB had to learn, regarding consultation and participation, but one had to remember that Matatiele was also about a provincial boundary, which was not within the mandate of the MDB.
Mr Boinamo asked what necessitated the moving of boundaries.
Mr Mahlangu replied that in 2000 the first boundaries were made in a hurry. There was a realisation that at some stage, it would need revision. The MDB’s business was to continually reverse apartheid geography and in that sense it was a transformational instrument. The question was: to what extent did they enable municipalities to be sustainable and to fulfil their obligations. Other boundaries were just anomalies and were just acting as obstacles to progress. For example, if a boundary stopped just short of a road, the MDB would reason that it was more practical to make the road the boundary, resulting in the need for a boundary change.
Mr Mahlangu added that in determining ward boundaries, the MDB was bound by two principles. Firstly, there was the principle of the wall-to-wall municipality, where every square inch of the municipality had to be included in a ward and secondly, every ward had to have the same number of people. There had to be electronic equality. In countries such as England, wards also changed consistently. Either the wards had to change, as was the case currently, or the legislation had to change which would allow wards to have unequal numbers of people.
Mr Smith said consensus was a useful approach. He suggested that no mergers took place unless agreed to by both parties.
The Chairperson asked whether the MDB took into account the financial situations of municipalities when making decisions to merge them.
Mr Mahlangu replied that the MDB’s approach was that there was structurally nothing wrong with amalgamating municipalities. The viability of municipalities had to be taken into account. The principle was that the merged municipalities must not be worse off than before.
Mr Mahlangu added that the MDB had a meeting with the municipalities of Metsimaholo and the other party as well as the district. All parties supported it. He was disappointed that the councillors did not create public awareness. Also when they were called to address the meetings they did not pitch up. This was what the visits were all about. Even technical visits were about creating awareness about what the proposal entailed.
The Chairperson asked how the MDB executive was going to hand over to the new MDB, in the light of the fact that its tenure was ending in February 2014 and preparations for elections would be in full swing.
Mr Mahlangu said this question of the handover was important, because it was determined by the legislation and the MDB did not actually have control over it. It described how MDB members should be appointed. The MDB was in discussion with the Minister to start the handover process well in advance. The MDB was satisfied that it would be a seamless, smooth handover. No problem was expected in this respect and the formalities would have to be discussed with the Ministry.
Mr Matshoba proposed that the Committee on its own discuss when and how would be the best time for the handover to happen.
The Chairperson said the issues raised in this meeting needed more discussion with specific items on the agenda. On 21 May 2013, at 14h00 in Room E249 was the budget vote for this Ministry.
The following questions were not answered:
Mr Smith asked why, according to Slide 25, the MDB had the need to develop a model for the categorization of metros.
Mr Smith referred to Slide 33 where the MDB stated that it could lose R2.7 million during 2013-2016 due to a reduction in its allocation. Slide 36 stated that the formula used to calculate salaries increases was CPI+1%. He asked why it did not use the formula CPI-1%, as Parliament did.
SALGA on its Strategic / Annual Performance Plan
The Chairperson said that the Committee did not often call meetings with SALGA, but when it called a meeting with SALGA, it requested the presence of the executive. It had requested the presence of the executive for this meeting, as it did for many meetings before this one. This was an important meeting, because SALGA had to present its Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan to the Committee . It also requested the presence of the executive to improve its working relationship with SALGA and so that SALGA could start to take the Committee seriously. Mr Mpho Nawa, Deputy Chairperson of SALGA, had informed the Chairperson that the chairperson of SALGA had another engagement and was not present.
The Committee had adopted its program on the 20th November 2012 and amended it when 2013 started.
Mr Matshoba said the Chairperson should not waste time. It the chairperson of SALGA was not present, the Committee did not have to waste its time to continue with the meeting. The Committee had its program and SALGA knew what was planned. The SALGA executive did not take the Committee seriously and it had been coming on for years. SALGA had a problem with the Municipal Systems Act. They said it was unconstitutional last month. They could not be serious.
Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) agreed with Mr Matshoba. She was told the chairperson went to another meeting, which showed that this meeting was not considered as important as the one he went to.
Mr Bonhomme said that SALGA did not respect the committee and was unconcerned about the Committee’s work. SALGA did not notify the Committee either. The Committee had powers to summons structures and it had to use these. SCOPA summoned structures to appear before it and this Committee had to do the same.
Mr Steenhuizen asked whether the schedule had been communicated to the entities timeously. When did SALGA receive this notification and did SALGA try to re-schedule the meeting. Where was the chairperson of SALGA today? What had taken precedence over a Portfolio Committee of the National Assembly. This was problematic. It was very difficult for the Committee to tackle issues when the senior executive of the entity was not present. He respected the representatives that were present, but the Committee needed the SALGA chairperson to be present, because the final responsibility rested with him.
Ms Nelson asked whether any political office bearer of SALGA was present. She said the sentiments of the Committee went out to the deputy chairperson very strongly. This had been the trend in SALGA’s treatment of engagements with the Committee for some time. The Committee wanted the same working relationship with SALGA as it had with other entities.
The Chairperson said there was no functional working relationship between the Committee and SALGA, and the Committee often felt undermined. SALGA never invited the Committee to its lekgotlas or its events. The Committee did not know what SALGA was doing. This was a critical document that needed to be adopted and it needed to be discussed and the head of the institution was not present. The Committee was not taken seriously. While she respected the presence of the deputy chairperson, the Committee required the presence of the chairperson.
The Committee Secretary said SALGA was on her mailing list which meant that all mail that went to the members went to the Parliamentary Office of SALGA as well. Roughly two weeks before, the formal invitation to attend this meeting was sent, confirming this meeting, to the SALGA Parliamentary Office.
Mr Smith said if the deputy chairperson was present, it meant a political office bearer was present and he had to be an adequate substitute.
Ms Nelson said the meeting could go ahead, to avoid fruitless expenditure, but the message had to go out that the next meeting would not happen if the chairperson was not present.
Mr Matshoba asked whether SALGA had received the Committee Programme, besides the formal letter.
Ms Nelson withdrew her previous statement.
The Chairperson said there were two views: One for the meeting to continue and the other for the meeting to be postponed until the chairperson of SALGA could attend in person.
Mr Boinamo agreed with Mr Steenhuizen.
The Chairperson still felt that the Committee had been undermined, because there was no written apology.
The Chairperson gave Mr Nawa an opportunity to explain the situation to the Committee .
Mr Mpho Nawa, Deputy Chairperson of SALGA, noted the sentiments of the Committee and the seriousness with which they viewed the current state of affairs. He would inform the chairperson about it. He also noted the criticism of the SALGA way of working, which he would also convey. He apologised on behalf of the chairperson of SALGA for his absence. SALGA officials were also full time mayors and office bearers in their own municipalities, which were their first responsibilities. This was why he was at the meeting in his capacity as deputy chairperson.
Mr Nawa said he was disappointed and felt offended by the fact that the Chairperson did not recognise his status, although they had attended meetings and shared platforms at party level before. He felt offended by the way in which the Chairperson addressed him. This executive of SALGA was elected in September 2011. He was present at almost all the meetings the Committee had convened. In two meeting he accompanied the chairperson of SALGA. SALGA did not disrespect the Committee , but was operating under restrictions which included officials who had full time positions within municipalities. Mr Nawa said there were currently crises in municipalities the Eastern Cape and in the Northern Cape as the SALGA officials lost their positions as councillors.
Ms Nelson said the discussion had to stop due to the inappropriate turn the meeting had taken. She proposed that a letter be drawn up detailing what the Committee wanted to communicate to SALGA.
The Chairperson said the Committee heard the views of SALGA. She stood by her statement that there was no functional working relationship with SALGA. SALGA was not communicating with the Committee and was constantly undermining the Committee . She wanted to put it on record.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mail & Guardian 23 Jan 2013 Nickolaus Bauer
Zamdela residents vow to fight on in Sasolburg
Despite a minister's promise to halt the municipal merger, protesters in Zamdela say their strike will continue until the government listens.
As the dust settled on the third day of violent protests in Sasolburg, residents of the Zamdela informal settlement vowed to return to the streets on Wednesday – in direct defiance of the government's attempts to placate them.
"Government has been undermining this community for too long. We are not listening to their empty promises and we will continue fighting until they listen to us," Thladiyane Kgodumo, an unemployed Zamdela resident told the Mail & Guardian.
Kgodumo spoke next to a smouldering tyre on a untarred road in the township, surrounded by a fellow resident egging him on.
"If we need to burn down this place, then it's fine," Kgodumo said with rage, to loud cheers from his fellow protesters.
His utterances came barely minutes after Cooperative Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi halted the government plan that raised their ire – a proposed municipal merger.
Residents of the area opposed the merger of the Matsimaholo municipality in Sasolburg with the Ngwathe municipality near Parys.
Since Sunday, Zamdela has been the scene of violent protests as residents took to the streets in the township and nearby city of Sasolburg to vent their anger.
They barricaded roads, burnt vehicles and government property and pelted bystanders and police with missiles ranging from rocks to burning tyres.
Police responded with equal vigour, firing rubber bullets and teargas at protesters in an attempt to restore order. The three-day standoff has left Zamdela's streets littered with broken glass, rocks and burnt-out vehicles and turned Sasolburg into a ghost town.
Shops and businesses closed their doors, schools suspended classes and the local Sasol plant has suspended operations indefinitely.
"Corrupt people occupy the council and corrupt people occupy the provincial government," Kgodumo said.
"They only look after themselves and don't care about Zamdela, so we don't care what they want. This is the only way they listen to us."
Nepotism and corruption
It is unclear why their fury suddenly erupted over the government's plan, which has been in the offing since the end of the general elections in 2011. But they claim Ngwathe is badly run by allies of Free State Premier Ace Magashule and is beset by nepotism and corruption.
"The Ngwathe municipality has run itself into the ground and we as residents of Matsimaholo do not want to be associated with those thieves," Sam Mthembu, another Zamdela resident, told the M&G.
Events turned deadly on Tuesday when a protester was killed after being caught in between demonstrators and the police. There were also unconfirmed reports of further deaths among Zamdela residents resulting from the violent clashes between them and police.
But police could not confirm these allegations.
Baloyi said he believed the moves to halt the proposed merger was more than enough reason for residents to cease their violent protests.
"People were under the impression that this [the merger] was going to happen. That it was already decided when it wasn't," Baloyi told journalists at KaraboFM – a community radio station in Sasolburg.
Viability of a merger
The minister said he would appoint a task team to investigate the viability of the proposed merger.
"At this point in time, there has been no merger of these two municipalities and there won't be any such merger until the task team has completed their work," he said.
Baloyi also said that while Zamdela residents were fully within their rights to voice their concerns against the proposed municipal merger, he was disappointed protests turned violent.
"Clearly there are elements of criminality to the Zamdela protests, but we will deal with that once the task team has finished its work," he added.
Baloyi's assertions were bolstered by the ANC. "This cannot be allowed in a modern democracy such as ours, where individuals with ulterior motives take advantage of what should be a peaceful protest to be a fertile ground for criminality," ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said.
But for Kgodumo and other Zamdela residents like Nelson Maduna, Baloyi's compromise and the ANC's calls for calm are not enough.
"Our leaders are afraid to see us and talk to us properly because they know they are wrong. So we are going to carry on like this until they listen," Maduna said.
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