The Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs met to revise and adopt Oversight Reports on recent visits to the Municipalities of Masilonyana, Mafube, and Metsimolo. All three reports were adopted with minor amendments. Members also suggested the expansion of some areas of the reports in order to make the Oversight Reports more comprehensive, perhaps using some of the detail provided in reports from the Human Rights Commission and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
The Chairperson thanked Members for their support and well wishes during his absence. He also thanked those who had been acting to fill his place in his absence.
He referred to a recent case where the House and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) had disagreed and that this showed signs of South African democracy maturing. The Committee in going out and doing oversight visits ensured that it had a sense that other members could not get in their absence, and was better placed to understand the issues on the ground
He expressed appreciation for the cooperation during the Committee’s oversight visits to the municipalities of Masilonyana, Mafube and Metsimolo. He noted the absence of other officials and that he would follow up with those who were absent from the visit.
Oversight Report on Masilonyana Municipality
The Committee went through the Oversight Report from the Masilonyana Municipality and corrected minor errors.
Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) explained that the document was likely to be referred back to long after the Committee Members were gone and therefore needed to be as full as possible. There was no mention of the lack of provision of water within some areas of the municipality and this needs to be included for follow up in the future. The Human Rights Commission report, the Eskom debt, and the fact that debt collections in the municipality currently sit at 22%, all need to be included in the oversight report under Substantive Matters Related to the Intervention. Could the explanation under point six be expanded to include these issues?
The Chairperson said there was no harm in expanding this and that the Committee took note of the concerns raised but that they should wait for the Human Rights Commission Report as they were not privy to it at present.
Mr Michalakis said the Committee was aware of the report. Before the follow up visit, that report must be given to the Committee. He offered to forward it to the other Members of the Committee.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee took note of this but that they would await the report so that they were fully aware of the details of the issues.
Mr Michalakis explained that it would be needed for the follow up.
Mr S Thobejane (ANC, Limpopo) asked if this document had been referred to during the engagement with stakeholders.
The Chairperson noted the submission made by Mr Michalakis but expressed the need for a follow up specifically in relation to the water issue mentioned in the Human Rights Commission Report.
Mr Michalakis was happy with that but asked for clarity on the low collections and Eskom debt.
The Chairperson referenced section 14.4 and said the issue of Eskom and the billing system was covered but perhaps it could be explained further. There was a need for the Committee report to pronounce issues that are creating deficiencies in the municipalities.
Mr Michalakis mentioned the section referring to the Presentation of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) on page 3 of the report was very opaque. This section only touched on what the Department said but in reality, the Department had gone into a lot of detail in their report. This report had been very helpful as it gave good insight and detailed information. Could the Committee’s report reflect the detailed information given? Perhaps the COGTA report could be attached to the Committee’s report as at present the Committee report did not give as clear an insight into the situation.
The Chairperson stated that often the information from the municipality is too general and that the Committee has the ability to take what is more relevant to the legislative requirement as stipulated. Often the issues raised are far beyond the relevance of section 139. What issues need to be incorporated specifically?
Ms B Engelbrecht (DA, Gauteng) noted that under Substantive Matters on page 3 of the report, it mentioned that the ‘municipality related challenges faced relating to the failure to spend 11 million of the infrastructure grant’ however there is R6 million lying in the grant and this needs to be reflected in the report as it meant there is actually 17 million.
The Chairperson clarified that this was for two financial years. It was R7 million if he was not mistaken. The issue of funds is crucial as failure to execute it must always be taken into consideration. There is a challenge in terms of the aging infrastructure.
Mr Thobejane highlighted the need for officials to pay special attention to grammar and spelling as there were numerous grammatical errors in the report. He highlighted some specific errors.
The Chairperson highlighted the need for the Content Advisor and relevant officials to proofread documents and reports. He also noted the positive interaction from the stakeholders that were willing to support the municipality.
Mr Thobejane highlighted a spelling error in section 14.4.
The Chairperson noted that in the process of reading and adopting minutes, grammatical errors are normally picked up. There will always be human error.
Mr Michalakis highlighted the need to include follow up on the Human Rights Commission Report under the recommendations on page 7. On the issue raised earlier, he would like to see the inclusion of point B, C, D and E from the COGTA presentation under the section on the Presentation by COGTA. These sections in the Department’s report highlight the exact situation very clearly. If these points were copied into the Oversight Report then the Oversight Report will be as complete as possible.
The Chairperson asked for clarity as section 6 and its subsections appeared to deal with most issues.
Mr Michalakis suggested expanding these points to make them more complete and comprehensive. This should be guided by the submissions.
Mr DL Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape) said that the Committee report should not just copy from the COGTA report but rather it should focus on the relevant details in order to report to the council.
Mr M Manele, Committee Secretary, highlighted that the points had been paraphrased rather than copied directly but that there was room for expansion under specific headings, however, these areas of expansion could also not just be copied directly.
The Chairperson explained that the importance of issues such as that of unauthorised and wasteful expenditure needed to be reflected in the report. This will be looked into to make sure that the report reflects the crucial issues.
The issue of capacity building of both councillors and officials who are developing the municipality is also crucial. There is a challenge with interpersonal relations in terms of the political office bearers, which came across during the presentations. COGTA should also come up with a capacity building programme around the role clarification and segregation of duties. This will help avoid unnecessary feuds between office bearers and different offices.
Ms Engelbrecht said it was important that the Committee had provided an overall view of the issues but that the COGTA report was very specific, which would be important for future oversight visits. The COGTA report could be added as an annexure which could then be referred to in the Committee report.
The Chairperson said that there was nothing wrong with adding an annexure but that this report was the Committee’s own. An annexure would still remain attached to a report offered by a particular person but in this case, the Committee must own up to its own report. It was important to extract what was key from the COGTA report but then make the words the Committee’s own.
Mr Michalakis agreed with the Chairperson but suggested that the Committee could draw its own report, reflecting the Committee’s view, as well as referring to the COGTA report as an annexure. He mentioned some of the issues that had not been included in the report, including the shortage of TLBs and other fleet due to financial reasons which is forcing some of the officials to dig graves by hand. Issues of importance must be included in the report but at this point, this is not the case.
Mr Thobejane stated there was no serious guidance on this matter but going back to make sure that the report is expanded would be sufficient. There was nothing to stop the report referring to other documents but as a Committee adopting a report, the current report seemed sufficient. The suggestions by Mr Michalakis should be looked into as an opportunity to expand on these areas. In terms of capacity, there should perhaps be reference to section 154.1 of the Constitution as this was very important.
The Chairperson suggested these be dealt with separately. The issue of capacity for councillors and officials and the evocation of section 154 must be reflected in the report. The Committee would be visiting to look at the issues raised and would request a progress report on these issues in order to monitor the situation.
Mr Michalakis was happy with this decision. He referenced section 15.1.3 and asked to include the progress report on the Human Rights report under these points.
The Chairperson concurred.
The report was adopted with minor amendments.
Oversight Report on Mafube Municipality
Mr Michalakis asked for this report to also be expanded to be made more comprehensive.
The Chairperson raised the issue of capacity building as a priority.
Mr Michalakis concurred and asked that it be included in both reports.
The Chairperson highlighted that the more a return visit was delayed, the more damage could be done and the less likely a follow up would be done. There needs to be a way to engage the office bearers in Parliament. There was a need for more visibility on the ground, especially when it came to monitoring municipalities. The Committee should be given more space to do follow ups on challenges that municipalities face.
The report was adopted with minor amendments.
Oversight Report on Metsimolo Municipality
The Chairperson noted that the approach to Metsimolo was a dissolution in terms of section 1394. A correction was needed as the report references section 1391C. Checking the limitations in this provision, it says that a notice will be served to the Committee. No regulations are in place for the Committee making a follow up. The Committee received a letter from the office of the Chair with regard to Metsimolo Civic Association. The Committee must go out and interact with them.
Mr Michalakis expressed concern over how this action would make a difference. The Committee had no influence over what was happening in that municipality. As the municipality needs to go through an election, meeting with different political parties at this stage would be fruitless as the NCOP has no jurisdiction over this. Under the recommendations instead of saying the NCOP approves the intervention, the report should say that the NCOP notes the intervention and that a follow up meeting will not be necessary. He asked for further explanation of the reasoning behind going to meet with the MCA. Surely going to see them in response to a letter would be a wasteful expense?
The Chairperson stated that although the Committee had no power in this case to approve or disapprove, the Committee cannot just close doors when people wish to bring something to their attention. It was important to give them a hearing as they had taken the initiative to bring something previously unheard to the Committee’s attention.
Mr Michalakis said people could make written submissions and therefore there was no need for the Committee to go to Sasolburg, especially if the Committee had no jurisdiction to help them with whatever the problem was. That would be wasteful expenditure and there was no reason for the Committee to get involved in something which did not concern them. The doors should not be closed on them; they are more than welcome to make submissions, but for the Committee to go all that way and then say that they cannot help sounds like a joyride.
Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) said a visit would not be harmful. It would assist in clearing most of the issues raised. It was important to listen to people if they have something they want to say to the Committee.
Mr Thobejane was not sure what was mentioned in the letter or what issues were raised. It was difficult to make a decision on what action to take without knowing, but some action needed to be taken. A response with the actions that could be taken would be appropriate.
The Chairperson stated that any matter dealt with as the Committee was a referral as the NCOP. In this case, there was a referral from the Office of the Chair. All the issues fall within section 139. If it was under this section, the Committee had the responsibility to give any person a hearing. It was important not to exclude and public access and involvement in the National Council is outlined in the Constitution. The Committee had the responsibility to involve the public and educate people.
Mr Michalakis said it was important not to close doors but if it could be done by written correspondence then it should be done in that manner. A response was necessary but for a physical hearing to Sasolburg, he wanted his objection noted as it was wasteful expenditure.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had not made any decision to say it would be fruitless or wasteful.
Ms Engelbrecht asked for the contents of the letter to dictate the action of the Committee. If the letter only required information then surely an onsite visit is not necessary. Time is limited and therefore a constraint so the content of the letter should dictate the action.
The Chairperson requested an adjournment in order to circulate copies of the letter in question.
Mr Michalakis said this was not possible as the meeting was only scheduled for an hour and other meetings were taking place which would clash if the meeting ran late.
Mr Mthethwa asked if the Chairperson had read the letter and if so, the Chairperson deemed it necessary to perform an oversight then the Committee could not refuse.
Mr Ximbi concurred and said the letter could be circulated later. The Committee must decide whether to go there or not. If the Committee felt that the need to visit that place then why not.
Mr Michalakis asked for the rationale for going if the Committee had no power. He asked that his objection to be noted.
Ms Engelbrecht noted that 6.1 on page 4 needed changed as the committee were invited but did not conduct a visit as the report makes out.
Mr Michalakis noted that 6.1.3 should be deleted as it is 1.39.1C. This outlines that there is no need to revisit as it is completely dissolved and therefore there should just be a report on outcome of the election.
The Chairperson disagreed as there might be other information needed. There was an obligation to monitor so an exit report was also needed.
Mr Michalakis suggested that in this case point 3 should read receive a finalising report.
The Chairperson said that if the need arose, then a visit would take place in addition to a report.
Mr Michalakis asked why such attention was being given to visiting Sasolburg.
The Chairperson stated that wherever there has been an intervention in a municipality, there would always be follow up oversight to make sure that wrongs were not committed in the absence of a strong structure.
Mr Thobejane said the contents of the letter should be looked at and then the action should be decided and that the Committee would abide to this decision.
The Chairperson said that communication alone would not suffice in order to monitor the situation and the administrator. The Chairperson will look into the letter and decide on the best course of action.
The report was adopted with minor amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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