Section 139 intervention: Umvoti municipality

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Meeting Summary

The MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs for Kwazulu-Natal briefed the Select Committee on the decision by the Provincial Executive Council to intervene at Umvoti municipality in terms of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution, on 17 July 2013. The purpose was to request the Select Committee to consider the matter, and to recommend approval of the intervention to the National Council of Provinces.

The MEC outlined developments at Umvoti since the Local Government elections in 2011. Events had culminated in a request from the Municipal Manager on 11 July 2013 to close the municipal offices until 18 July 2013. There had been acts of violence, threats and an exchange of firearms witnessed in the municipal offices.

The MEC discussed the situation in terms of failure to comply, with governance compromised and a failure to fulfil the executive obligation to govern lawfully. There had been alienation or refusal of certain parties to allow other parties within the council to participate in the executive committee (Exco), and council business had been frustrated by the disruption of meetings. The Exco had been composed in such a way that parties represented in the Exco were not represented in the same proportion as they were in council. A motion that removed the Speaker had been defective, as it had never been seconded or voted upon. The unlawful election of the Exco, Mayor and Deputy Mayor, as well as the removal of the Speaker and the election of a new Speaker, was seen as a failure by the council to fulfil its executive obligation to govern lawfully. Decisions made by improperly constituted or elected office bearers would be illegal and would have to be set aside, and this might have consequences for the municipal fiscus and residents in the area. Illegalities had to be corrected as soon as possible.

For the above reasons, the Provincial Executive Council had resolved to intervene at Umvoti municipality in terms of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution, and to assume the functions specified in section 51 of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000.

The MEC was directed to appoint a representative to establish and organise the administration in a manner that would enable the municipality to achieve the objectives of local government, as set out in section 152 of the Constitution.

In discussion, there was a question about the salaries of executives, as there seemed to be a situation where some would benefit and others would suffer. The MEC replied that it had been proposed that all councillors be paid normal councillor’s salaries until matters had been resolved, and that no one be paid an Exco allowance. There was a question about problems at Ugu, Uthukela and Umzinyathi municipalities. There was agreement that the situation at Umvoti showed serious instability. It was seen as a government crisis and a critical situation, and it was important for the Committee to endorse the Provincial Executive Council decision.
 

Meeting report

Briefing by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Ms Nomusa Dube, MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta): KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), briefed the Committee.   The purpose of the briefing was to inform the Select Committee of a decision to intervene at Umvoti Municipality, so that the Select Committee might recommend approval of the intervention to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Based on the outcome of the 2011 elections, the ANC had won two seats on the executive committee (Exco), and the IFP two.  At the inaugural meeting, it had been decided to reduce the seats to three -- two ANC and one IFP. The ANC had later ceded a seat to the NFP, granting the three parties one seat each. The reduced size of the Exco had not found favour with the IFP, who had brought an urgent application against it to court. The IFP wanted to submit a motion for the election of a new Exco, Mayor and Deputy Mayor, at a meeting in November 2012. The Mayor and other councillors had brought a motion to the court to interdict the motion, and the meeting.

At a council meeting on 28 March 2013, while the Mayor was tabling the municipal budget, councillors from the DA, IFP and NFP had staged a walkout to consult among themselves. At a further meeting on 12 June 2013, the Mayor announced that he was resigning and could not table the budget.  Councillors from the IFP, DA and NFP had walked out and left the meeting without a quorum.  At that meeting, officials from the Department had been informed of a motion to remove the Mayor and two other members of the executive committee. At a meeting on 21 June 2013, existing members of the Exco were removed and it was agreed that the Exco should comprise of four members. The Speaker had stated at the meeting that the ANC had to have two seats. The DA and the NFP were voted into the remaining two seats, and the IFP was thus out of the Exco. The newly elected Mayor had approached the High Court to declare the election of the Deputy Mayor unlawful.

On 5 July 2013, councillors had put forward a notice of a motion to remove the Speaker. Other councillors had objected, which had led to a situation of chaos and disorder in which the South African Police Services had to intervene. A new Speaker had afterwards been verbally proposed and seconded, and was declared elected as Speaker.

The MEC had received a request from the Municipal Manager on 11 July 2013 for approval to close the municipal offices until 18 July 2013. There had been acts of violence, and an exchange of firearms had been seen inside offices. Staff members were politically affiliated and that had caused pressure and internal fights. Service delivery and functionality were being seriously compromised.

Ms Dube said that the alienation or refusal by certain parties to allow other parties within the council to participate effectively in the executive, or actions to frustrate council business through disruption, was in contravention of Constitutional principles envisaged for local government. Parties had to be represented in the executive committee in the same proportion that they were represented in the council. The motion to remove the Speaker had been defective, because it had never been seconded nor voted upon. The election of a new Speaker had been irregular and not in compliance with formal requirements.

Until such time as the High Court corrected the position, the municipal council would continue to govern unlawfully. Decisions taken by improperly constituted or elected officers would have to be set aside, with implications for the municipal fiscus and residents. Illegalities had to be corrected as soon as possible.

For the above reasons, it had been resolved by the provincial Executive Council to intervene at Umvoti municipality in terms of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution. The MEC had been directed to appoint a representative to establish and organise the administration in a manner that would enable the municipality to achieve the objects of local government, as set out in section 152 of the Constitution. The Umvoti municipality had been informed of the intervention, and statutory letters to the NCOP, National Minister and KZN legislature had been dispatched.

Discussion
Mr L Nzimande (ANC, KZN) remarked that the instability at Umvoti was serious. It amounted to a government crisis. There was a need to endorse the intervention. The Provincial Executive Council (PEC) had considered the issue, and needed to handle the legal functioning. It was important for the Select Committee to endorse the PEC decisions.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) asked about the salaries of members of the Exco, or those who claimed to be. He asked who was getting what. It was clear that some were suffering, while others were benefiting.

Ms Dube replied that it had been proposed that all councillors be paid ordinary councillor’s salaries until matters had been resolved. It had been recommended to the Municipal Manager that no one be paid the Exco allowance. There had been a situation in Mbabazane, where there had been illegal elections, and the Mayor and the Exco had stayed in office for eight months. All contracts had had to be reversed, and people not procedurally appointed had had their appointments terminated. The courts were taking a long time to pronounce on issues, and the Department could not move in the meantime. There was a stalemate.

Mr Gunda said that he seconded the intervention.

Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng) remarked that he had thought, on the basis of Committee recommendations, that the province would brief them and keep them abreast. The Committee knew the issues. The Committee was aware of the situation, and he had thought that they would be taken into confidence. The Committee knew what had happened at Ugu.

The Chairperson asked Mr Matila how he thought the MEC was supposed to respond. For the meeting, the MEC had to deal with a specific situation.

Mr Matila noted that just before the recess there had been five Section 139 interventions in KZN. Ugu had been mentioned.

The Chairperson noted that the number of interventions had to be known for a statement of the Committee to the House.

Ms Dube responded that there had there had been no interventions in Ugu, Uthukela and Umzinyathi. At Ugu, there had been problems over cash flow and financial matters. The province had had to give technical support to correct the situation.  The problems had emanated from spending on water and electricity. More money was being spent on water, than was being received. There was not enough money in the budget. The municipal cash flow had been affected by debtors who could not pay, and financial obligations could not be fulfilled. A team had been sent to stabilise the situation, and there was no need to put them under administration. There were also issues related to the organogram and financial management. The Treasury had sent consultants  to help the new municipality.

 

Uthukela and Umzinyathi had inherited financial problems from before 2011. There had been no assistance from the province. The debtor’s book had had to be cleaned, the organogram fixed, and there had to be good budgeting. The Independent Development Plan had to align with the budget. There had had to be work with the Treasury to ensure realistic costing and budgeting. The Treasury had had to assist with issues of compliance, expenditure, revenue management, and liquidity.

Mr Gunda remarked that he was satisfied with the account.

The Chairperson remarked that the Select Committee had to acknowledge the input made by the province. The Committee had no discretionary powers of intervention. He suggested that the meeting be adjourned.

Mr Matila agreed with the decision to adjourn. Interventions could be continued in the following week, to indicate what was happening in KZN.

The Chairperson asked Ms Dube to prepare stakeholders.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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