Municipal Demarcation Board briefing on processes and challenges

Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) stated that its key functions were the determination and re-determination of municipal boundaries, capacity assessment, and advisory work. Work with boundaries included amalgamation and/or resizing of municipalities, and categorisation or re-categorisation.  The Board was committed to ending the era of cross-boundary municipalities, creating more metropolitan municipalities and creating credible boundaries for traditional areas. Apartheid geography would be reversed. The aim was wall-to-wall municipalities and the integration of communities, to contribute to developmental local government.

When the Board determined a municipal boundary, the objectives were to enable the area to fulfill constitutional obligations, to enable effective local government and integrated development, and to have a tax base as inclusive as possible of service users in the municipality. Challenges included a growing trend to re-fragment municipalities, constraints imposed by provincial boundaries, and a lack of public awareness.

Asked to explain how demarcation decisions were reached, the MDB said that the criteria were not ideal. There was a temptation to collapse municipalities and wards, and to amalgamate. Size was a vexing question. It was not possible to demarcate against poverty. The first MDB had had to deviate from what was given, and subsequent Boards had had to build on that. The country was not evenly divided. Fewer municipalities were needed in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and some municipalities had had to be relocated. Amalgamation looked attractive, but bigger was not always better


Members expressed concern over municipalities that stretched over vast distances, or were divided by mountains or rivers.  The principle of establishing municipalities on the basis of the number of voters included, was severely criticised.   A Member remarked that it was a numbers game, and commented that research was inadequate.  The MDB agreed that it was wrong for wards to be divided by a mountain or a river, but pointed out that it played a minor role in determining ward boundaries. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was responsible for that. Wards were composed of IEC voting districts.  The Board could not determine the number of wards. They could only say how many voters could be in the wards. Municipalities would be assisted to bring proposals. Discussions around proposals were amicable.

The Chairperson concluded that various stakeholders had to be brought together for a summit. The Select Committee would assist that process. Systems and models had to be looked at, in order to come up with the best. Challenges had to be identified. The Treasury had to be brought on board.
 

Meeting report

Briefing by the Municipal Demarcation Board on demarcation processes and challenges
Mr Lindiwe Mahlangu, Deputy Chairperson of the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB), noted that the first Board had been appointed in February 1999, the second in February 2004, and the current one in February 2009. The key functions of the Board were the determination and redetermination of municipal boundaries, capacity assessment, and advisory work. The work of the Board with boundaries included the amalgamation and/or resizing of municipalities, and their categorisation or re-categorization.  Inner/ward boundaries were reviewed every five years for purposes of municipal elections. The Board was committed to ending the era of cross-boundary municipalities, creating more metropolitan municipalities and creating credible boundaries for traditional areas. Apartheid geography would be reversed. The aim was wall-to-wall municipalities and the integration of communities, to contribute to developmental local government.

In July 2011, the Board had more than 500 proposals for boundary changes.  Stakeholders had submitted additional requests for boundary changes and by January 2012, over 1 028 proposals had been received. Some of the proposals did not meet legal requirements and had been rejected. 204 proposals had been published in terms of Section 26 of the Municipal Demarcation Act to test public opinion.
 
When the Board determined a municipal boundary, the objectives were to enable the area to fulfill constitutional obligations, to enable effective local government and integrated development, and to have a tax base as inclusive as possible of service users in the municipality. Challenges included a growing trend to re-fragment municipalities, constraints imposed by provincial boundaries, and a lack of public awareness. There was a need for role clarification between the Board and the executive. There was a lack of staff and research capacity.

The MDB was aware of a need for public participation. There had to be engagement with stakeholders like Premiers, MECs and Mayors. Current budgetary resources would not sustain the Board’s mandate beyond the Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF). It was imperative that the Board’s resources be allocated directly by Parliament. The MDB intended to establish a stakeholder management unit and a research unit.

Discussion
Mr J Bekker (DA, Western Cape) asked about the motivation for the merger of Midvaal with another municipality. He asked if there had been any public meetings.

It had been said that the MDB did not report to the Minister. Yet during the Sasolburg strikes, a statement had been issued by the Minister.

Mr Bekker asked about service delivery at small municipalities.  Kannaland in the Western Province was situated on both sides of a mountain. The question was how services were to be delivered. After the Municipal Manager and the CFO had been paid, there was no money left for development.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) said that there was a problem with objective criteria for boundaries. There were none of the stated criteria in municipalities like Mier in the Kalahari; Garies; Leliefontein in Namakwaland; Ubuntu; Loxton; Victoria West and Richmond. Richmond had nothing to look forward to. Municipalities were 50 kilometres apart. At Ubuntu, everything was 50 to 60 kilometers away. He asked how conclusions to demarcate were reached.

Mr Mahlangu answered that the criteria were not ideal. There was a temptation to collapse municipalities and wards, and to amalgamate. Size was a vexing question. It was not possible to demarcate against poverty. The first MDB had had to deviate from what was given, and subsequent Boards had had to build on that. The country was not evenly divided. Fewer municipalities were needed in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and some municipalities had had to be relocated. Amalgamation looked attractive, but bigger was not always better. There was a town in North West with 15 000 people, of whom 90% were unemployed. Other interventions were needed to make areas viable.

Mr Gunda asked if people who had brought proposals were aware of what Section 26 entailed,
and asked how the Board helped with service.

Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng) said that the Select Committee represented the provinces, and in terms of the law the Board had to consult with them. The Select Committee had better ground level contact than the Portfolio Committee. He remarked that the Board research unit did not do its work with regard to wards. At Cullinan and Hammanskraal, there was a buffer of farms between them. He asked how that situation was managed.

He remarked that the Board was playing numbers games. Communities were not being brought together. During the Western Province by-elections, people were told that they had to vote in another ward. That contradicted what the Board was saying about itself.

In Gauteng, in the Vaal area and the West Rand, economically active and non-active areas had been separated. The Board had to deal with the imbalances of the past. It all went back to the research unit, which was deceiving the Board. Wards separated by a mountain could not be made into one ward. Things became unmanageable.

Mr Mahlangu replied that there were two guiding principles. There had to be the same amount of people in each municipality, and everyone had to be included in a municipality. It was necessary to cover ground to make up numbers. There was unmanageability because of distances. The Board played a minor role in the process. The drivers were the Minister and the MECs. The Minister issued a formula through the MECs to determine the number of councillors. When the number of councillors increased, there had to be reconfigurations. In countries like Canada, a board had the discretion to deviate from the norm. The ward process was collaborative, MECs determined the number of councillors. The Select Committee could play a role in addressing the issue of wards.

Mr Matila opined that the separation of economically active and non-active areas contributed to under-development. This was visible in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

Mr Gunda remarked that Ward 30 or 40 at Upington stretched 83 kilometres into farmland, but it was in the same ward as people who were 11 kilometers from Upington. The Minister had written a letter of complaint to the Board, but the situation had never been rectified.

Prince M Zulu (IFP, KZN) remarked that there were municipalities where there was not even a town. At Richards Bay and Ndambanane there were no towns, only municipal offices. The same was true for Indaka.

Mr Mahlangu replied that there was a proposal before the Board for Richards Bay.

Mr V Manzini (DA, Mpumalanga) said that he was from Bushbuck Ridge. Ward 32 was divided by a big river on the other side of Soeknog. A large area was occupied only by gum trees. Ward 14 was divided by a road.

Mr Mahlangu replied that it was wrong for wards to be divided by a mountain or a river. But the Board played a minor role in determining ward boundaries. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was responsible for that. Wards were composed of IEC voting districts. Ward 14 problems would be addressed.

Mr B Nesi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that the question was how ward councillors could serve dispersed people. There was a fragmentation of staff.  In Grahamstown, for instance, Rhodes University was a ward. People moved in there from farms 90 kilometres away. Ward councillors did not have licences to reach people. There were separate meetings for the same ward in Grahamstown and in the farm areas. There was no opportunity for integrated development. The Committee had objected in Grahamstown about wards. Town and township were divided. With service delivery, people in the same ward were not treated the same. He was worried about large distances dividing people, fragmentation, and matters not being explained to people.

Mr Mahlangu responded that the Board had to address the Committee specifically on wards. The Select Committee had moved ahead of the Board. There had to be more regular engagement. Rhodes had become a ward because it had the largest concentration of numbers in Grahamstown. There had to be an equal number of registered voters for wall-to-wall coverage. Much more consultation was needed. The Demarcation Act emphasised the role of provinces and MECs, but it would be good for Parliament to play a decisive role.

Mr Nesi asked why boundaries were being reviewed all the time. There were complaints from Goukamma.

Mr Mahlangu replied that reviews were carried out in order to learn to understand areas.

Mr D Bloem (COPE, Free State) cautioned that it was becoming a matter of shooting the messenger. It was not the Board who had to answer. Their role and mandate did not permit that. It was not for them to inform communities -- the municipalities had to do that. The Board was not obliged to hold meetings with government.

The problem at Sasolburg had been a lack of knowledge. There were political undertones. Municipalities were not doing what they had to do. The portfolio and select committees had to interact more frequently with the Board, seeing that the Board did not account to the Minister.

There was a problem with communicating with people through notices in the media. There were complications, as not all people were educated. Other means had to be found. People on the ground at Kroonstad and Edenville were unaware of the call for proposals.

Mr Mahlangu replied that radio was not well suited, because things had to be demonstrated visually on maps. But the Board was not relying exclusively on media. They also went out to the people.

Mr Matila said that the Board was sitting with the state as a stakeholder. Municipalities could not be brought on board for final decisions. The question was how a Mayor could be protected if the Board had the final decision. The challenge was the way in which numbers were used.  

The Chairperson appealed to Members to assist the Board. They had looked at critical issues. They had to be allowed to clarify matters, and to say how change could occur. Issues had been raised. Parliament had to come up with answers on how to deepen democracy. Attention had to be given to the process as it moved forward.

Ms Nondumiso Gwayi, Deputy Chairperson of the MDB, reiterated that the Board did not determine wards. A pro-active approach to ward deliniation had to be cultivated to support the developmental state. The Board wanted to empower. There were many proposals. With the resources at its disposal, the Board could not act alone. The Board had gone beyond working only with stakeholders in terms of the law. In KZN, there had been a partnership with the IEC to look at traditional authority areas. SALGA was also a partner. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had to help take the process forward. Municipalities had to engage stakeholders. Resources were needed. There had been efforts to give presentations not only in English, but also in local languages. The Board could not determine the number of wards. They could only say how many voters could be in the wards. Municipalities would be assisted to bring proposals. Discussions around proposals were amicable.

The Chairperson concluded that various stakeholders had to be brought together for a summit. The Select Committee would assist that process. Systems and models had to be looked at, in order to come up with the best. Challenges had to be identified. The Treasury had to be brought on board.

Adoption of Committee reports
Committee reports on interventions at Mbabazane and Indaka municipalities were adopted.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
 

Present

  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Share this page: