Section 139 intervention updates: Phokwane Local Municipality & Lekwa Local Municipality

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Meeting Summary

Audio: Section 139 intervention updates: Phokwane Local Municipality & Lekwa Local Municipality                        Part 2                                Part 3

The Committee was briefed by the Phokwane and Lekwa local municipalities on the effect of the Section 139 interventions on their administrations.

The Northern Cape Provincial Executive Council described the various factors which had led to the Phokwane municipality’s dissolution in March last year, but said the intervention had been bedevilled since its inception by continuous changes in leadership in the positions of the Speaker and the Mayor of the Municipal Council, and the disruption of council meetings.

Members asked about the current state of service delivery in the municipality, the holding of by-elections in terms of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) interim order, and the implementation of the recommendations that the Select Committee had made to the Provincial Executive Council. The Committee expressed concern about the lawlessness in the Phokwane Municipality, and asked how political parties could allow councillors to keep the municipality hostage because of infighting. Members stressed that Members of Executive Councils (MECs) needed to be more proactive in trying to ensure that municipalities complied with their structural and institutional values and statutory obligations.

The Mpumalanga Provincial Executive Council said a section 139(1)(b) intervention had been served on the Lekwa municipality since it owed a large amount to Eskom, was one of the municipalities polluting the Vaal River, and where communities were experiencing many problems relating to service delivery, including not receiving water and electricity. It was one of the seven distressed municipalities in the province that had been identified for special focus, and also had a lot infighting which led to instability in the municipality and affected service delivery.

Members raised questions about the political instability within the municipality and the impact it had on service delivery, and expressed their concerns about the municipal debt, sewage spillage into the Vaal River, and payments to Eskom. The Mayor was asked if he would take personal responsibility for the poor provision of basic services that was happening under his leadership. The Committee also said the MEC needed to appoint competent people with a burning desire to turn the municipality around, and that going forward it would need to visit the municipality to check on the progress made.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks

The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed everyone, giving special mention to the Members of Executive Councils (MECs) and administrators present from the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga respectively. He said the Committee would be engaging with two municipalities, Phokwane municipality in the Northern Cape and the Lekwa municipality in Mpumalanga.

Phokwane Municipality was under section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution, which meant that the municipality had been dissolved by the Provincial Executive of the Northern Cape. The Committee had a background on the Phokwane Municipality because last year it had conducted an oversight visit while it was still under section 138(1)(b), after which the Committee presented its report to Parliament, which was adopted. In April, the Committee was informed that the Provincial Executive had invoked section 139(1)(c) due to the deteriorating situation in the municipality.

The Committee would also be engaging with the Lekwa Municipality which was placed under section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution by the Mpumalanga Provincial Government.

Phokwane Local Municipality

Mr Bentley Vass, MEC: Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Northern Cape, said the Provincial Executive Committee had dissolved the Phokwane municipality on 27 March 2019 in terms of section 139(1)(b) and section 195 of the Constitution. The intervention was due to governance and administrative challenges, the interrupted provision of water, failure of the municipality to appoint senior managers, and refusing the MEC’s offer to support the municipality. There was also the lack of efficient oversight in the administration and a lack of management of financial affairs of the municipality through proper and diligent financial accountability.

The Provincial Executive’s intervention had commenced on 8 April 2019, and all relevant stakeholders such as the Minister of COGTA, the Provincial Legislature and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), had been informed on 10 April 2019. On the same day, the Municipal Council was informed of the decision that was taken, and had decided to interdict the intervention.

The Chairperson interrupted MEC Vass, and said that the Committee was well aware of the information and the progress which had led to the invocation of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution in the Phokwane municipality. The MEC was asked to speak about the circumstances which had led the Executive Committee to invoke section 139(1)(c) after the intervention had been approved by Parliament in September 2019.

MEC Vass said the reason the Executive Council had taken the decision to invoke section 139(1)(c) at the  Phokwane Municipality had been due to the failure of the Municipal Council to approve the 2019/20 budget on time, which had forced the Provincial Executive to intervene.

On 10 July 2019, during a section 139(1)(b) intervention to approve a temporary budget in terms of section 139(4)(b) of the Constitution, along with section 26(1)(b) of the local Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), the conditional approval was, inter alia, that the Municipal Council would approve the 2019/20 budget no later than 30 September 2019. The Municipal Council, however, had approved the budget at a special Council meeting just before midnight on 30 September 2019.

The Provincial Executive Council’s intervention in the Phokwane Municipality had been bedevilled since its inception by continuous changes in leadership in the positions of the Speaker and the Mayor. First there had been the expulsion of the then Speaker, Mr Horatius Modiakgotla and Mayor, Ms Sentse Kalman, which happened in May 2019 and was confirmed by the National Executive Committee on 28 July 2019. These expulsions had been challenged. The expulsion of the Speaker and the Mayor were then followed by the dismissal of two councillors at the end of December 2019, after which the Municipal Council was convened and Ms Fana Molola and Ms Keamogetse Mothibi were elected as Speaker and Mayor respectively.

On 5 February 2020, the expelled councillors also launched an application to challenge their expulsion, seeking an urgent interim order which was granted by the South Gauteng High Court against the African National Congress (ANC), the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Phokwane Local Municipality. The interim order stated that the membership of the ANC would be reinstated until the finalisation of the appeal of the ANC’s disciplinary appeals committee, or such other body as the court may direct. That the IEC would be interdicted from conducting elections or appointment of councillors to replace the applicants, as was scheduled to take place on 5 February. It also stated that the applicants would be reinstated as councillors in their respective positions in the Phokwane Municipality.

The two councillors who had been expelled sought a number of relief measures which included, in addition to those related to the ANC, “to set aside the decisions of the Council meeting of 9 December 2019 with regard to the election of Ms Molola and Mothibi as Speaker and Mayor respectively.” The matter had not yet been resolved by the court.

He said the municipality’s downward spiral was at the expense of the people and extended to the disruption of council meetings by expelled councillors, and the municipal council being unable to meet to consider and approve the annual budget for the 2019/20 financial year before the start of the new financial year.

As of 1 July 2019, the Council had failed to approve the 2019/20 Budget within the specified timeframes of the MFMA, and the proliferation of litigation matters had resulted in the municipality having two mayors and two speakers. This had caused confusion, which had permeated into the administration and resulted in the dual convening of municipal meetings, and the giving of conflicting instructions to the Administrator and officials of the municipality. The manifestation of political dynamics within the Municipal Council had further interfered with and vehemently rejected the section 139(1)(b) Constitutional intervention by the Provincial Executive Council, notwithstanding the approval by the Minister of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

MEC Vass said that in January 2020, the Municipal Council had again failed to meet, table and consider the midyear budget and performance assessment report -- a section 72 report.

Given all the above governance and administrative challenges, on 12 March the Provincial Executive Council had resolved to dissolve the municipality in terms of section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution. It was evident that the Municipal Council had failed to fulfil its obligations as a result of:

  1. the failure to hold Council meetings in order to appoint senior managers;
  2. the failure to consider the section 106 report;
  3. the failure to approve the 2019/20 financial year budget, the midyear budget, the performance assessment report and the 2019/20 adjustment budget;
  4. the municipality having two Speakers as well as two Mayors, which resulted in financial and legal constraints; and
  5. fundamentally the Municipal Council vehemently opposing and working against the section 139(1)(b) Constitutional intervention by the Provincial Executive Council, as approved by the Minister and the NCOP.

Intervention Progress 

The unfortunate events at Phokwane Municipality had been unfolding at the expense of the people, robbing the people in the communities of basic services. In this context and for the benefit of people of Phokwane, the municipal council was dissolved, but with strict compliance to the Constitutional imperatives as indicated.

On 12 March, the Provincial Executive Council had resolved to intervene, for the third time, by dissolving the Municipal Council in terms of section 139(1)(c). On 18 March, all three constitutional stakeholders -- the Minister of COGTA, the NCOP and the Northern Cape Provincial Legislatures -- were notified of the intervention in terms of section 139(3)(a)(i) and 139(3)(ii) of the Constitution respectively.

The Minister had responded on 20 March, approving the intervention with specific conditions that the Provincial Executive Committee implemented without delay, and in view of the implications of the COVID-19 protocols and directives applicable in the country, the Premier announced the dissolution of the Municipal Council of Phokwane local municipality on 19 May.

In accordance with other conditions of the Minister’s approval, on 20 May the IEC was immediately informed, and the Minister, the Chairperson of the NCOP and the Speaker of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature were also informed. The notice detailed the chronology of developments and the basis for the announcement on 19 May.

On 29 May, in accordance with section 35 of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, read with section 139 (1)(c), and in compliance with condition (a) of the Minister’s approval, a Government Gazette notice was published setting out the appointment of the Administrator of the Phokwane Local Municipality, and determined the powers and functions of the Administrator.

MEC Vass said that the IEC, upon receipt of the MEC’s notice of dissolution of the Municipal Council, indicated on 5 June that they would be approaching the Electoral Court to seek, amongst others, an order which authorised the holding of by-elections for the entire council of the Phokwane Local Municipality beyond the period of 90 days contemplated in section 25(3)(d) of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, but not beyond 120 days of the date of the order.

He concluded by saying that it was evident from what had been presented that the Municipal Council had failed to execute its Constitutional and executive obligations, and as a result the community had been suffering tremendous injustice at the hands of the Council. It was the view of the Provincial Executive Council that the dissolution of the Municipal Council would usher in a democratic solution to the impasse in the form of the election of a new Council, and the automatic termination of the Administration and/or intervention at the municipality.

Discussion

The Chairperson asked the MEC when the Administrator had been appointed in terms of section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution.

The MEC responded that the Administrator had been appointed on 20 May.

The Chairperson explained that it was important that he formally clarified what was supposed to happen after the Provincial Executive of the Northern Cape placed Phokwane Local Municipality under administration. During the time the decision was taken to intervene in the Municipal Council under section 139(1)(c), the Provincial Executive, with the Premier of the Province, had informed the NCOP about the decision. However, the entirety of the NCOP had been in Gauteng while the letter was sent to Cape Town in Parliament, and during this time the President had also announced the lockdown regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

According to the Provincial Government, a follow-up seeking concurrence on the decision, had been made with the Committee, and the Committee was expected to respond within 14 days after they had been notified about the intervention, and in the case that the Committee did not respond, it would be assumed that the Committee approved of the intervention. He said that the reason the Committee had not followed the usual procedure was the disturbance that the COVID-19 outbreak had caused.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked what the current state of service delivery in the Municipality was, in light of all the issues that had been mentioned in the presentation.

Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) said one of the matters the Committee had raised during its oversight visit to Phokwane was the issue of the Administrator, as there were allegations that the Administrator was tainted, that there was no accountability and that the Administrator would not aid the situation in Phokwane at the time.

When the Committee returned to Cape Town to resolve in plenary on the report about Phokwane, a number of issues had been raised with the MEC and the Administrator so that they could deal with them, and none had been mentioned in the MEC’s presentation. Some of the issues were the need for consequence management; that all outstanding reports -- from section 106 to forensic -- be tabled before Council, and that the MEC considers appointing a competent, honest and reliable Administrator. He also asked the MEC how many of the recommendations that the Committee had made had been adhered to, and if any, which ones. If there were none, the MEC was asked to provide reasons. He said it was worrisome that at times the Committee was being used to fight political battles, and asked how much it was costing the Phokwane Municipality to pay two Mayors and two Speakers.

Lastly, he asked what the MEC was trying to say about the Committee, by not taking the recommendations of the Committee seriously.

Ms S Shaikh (ANC, North West) asked what the status was around the conducting of elections in relation to the IEC interim order. She also asked about the current state of service delivery in the municipality.

Ms C Visser (DA, North West) said she was really concerned about the lawlessness taking place in the Phokwane Municipality. She asked how political parties could allow councillors to keep the municipality hostage because of infighting and the appointment of people to the wrong positions. It could not be allowed to continue to happen in municipalities, where people were dependent on service delivery. MECs were not proactively dealing with municipalities which were not complying with their structural and institutional values and statutory obligations. MECs needed to be proactive in ensuring compliance in municipalities and not wait until there was a crisis to act, as this showed a lack of leadership and meant that the people of Phokwane would remain in dire circumstances without service delivery due to the chaos in the municipality.

Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) said that during the Committee’s visit to the municipality, it had been noted that there were issues around access to water, and that councillors had hijacked the municipality. He asked what the MEC could say they had done about the situation. In Phokwane, the municipality had broken down and needed to be handed over to the Committee so that it could deal with it.

Mr S Zandamela (EFF, Mpumalanga) asked if the intervention in Phokwane Municipality had been approved by the Minister.

The Chairperson responded, saying that the intervention had been approved by the Minister on 20 March.

Ms M Mmola (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked how the two expelled councillors had disrupted meetings, and whether or not the Council had opened cases for disruption. Were the two Speakers and two Mayors being paid by the municipality?

The Chairperson asked the MEC to take the Committee through the process of implementing the recommendations of the NCOP, particularly regarding the quarterly report to the NCOP, as well as the forensic investigation that had been instituted in terms of section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act.

MEC’s response

MEC Vass said there had been progress in the municipality after the dissolution of the Council. The municipality was in a position where it could render services to the community. There had been no support for the section 106 report from the side of the Council, and also no effort on the part of the Council to convene Council meetings. There had been disruptions to every attempt to hold Council meetings.

He said the perception that the Provincial Executive Committee was not taking the Select Committee seriously was a false one, and that the recommendations of the Select Committee had been implemented.

He explained that the interim order had been for the two by-elections on 6 February.

Regarding the lawlessness of councillors, that had been the reason for the Provincial Council’s intervention -- to restore stability and ensure that the municipality was in a position to render services to the community. The Provincial Executive Council had tried everything within its power to give the municipality the necessary support.

The two Mayors and two Speakers had been paid for only one month, after which the issue had been resolved with the dissolution of the Municipal Council.

MEC Vass said the Administrator was well-informed about the issues at Phokwane Municipality. He had assisted in resolving the issues at the municipality and had helped to restore stability. He had a good relationship with the Department, and reports to it. The financial recovery plan had started in January, and there were a number of issues that the Administrator was trying to assist the Municipality with, including governance.

Administrator’s response

Mr Bamba Ndwandwe, the Administrator, responded to some of the Committee’s questions.

He said the audit outcomes of the municipality had been improved, and if it was not for the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2018/19 financial statement would have been submitted to the Auditor-General (AG) at the end of March 2020. Instead, it could be submitted only once the country was under Level 4 of the restrictions.

In the last two months, even under the restrictions, measures had been taken to ensure that there was consistent and continuous delivery of water to all areas of Phokwane Municipality, including in those areas where there were water shortages. The infrastructure at Phokwane was in a state of disruption due to aging, but despite this, it had been consistently repaired and in certain cases replaced in order to ensure that water services could be delivered consistently.

The Chairperson asked the Administrator to comment on the Municipality’s debt of R84 million to Sedibeng Water.

Mr Ndwandwe said when administrators arrived at the Municipality, there had been three main debtors, Vaalharts Water, Eskom and Sedibeng Water, and in July 2019 arrangements had been made with all three. A payment plan had been submitted to Eskom, and Eskom had given the Administrators 12 months to behave in terms of the payment plan before it could be approved.

The payment plan entailed paying out a minimum of 70% of the Municipality’s debt until the end of July, and after that the current account would be paid out in full. Currently, Administrators were waiting on Eskom to approve the plan.

On Sedibeng Water, payments were made until December 2019. Sedibeng Water had been asked to provide Administrators with confirmation that payment was being made, and it had been unable to provide this information until the Premier convened a meeting two months ago. During that meeting, it was agreed that the Department of Local Government and the Provincial Treasury in the Northern Cape would facilitate a meeting on how the issue could be resolved. Sedibeng was currently being paid for water received, and not the administrative costs that the Municipality was being billed on.

The Municipality was up to date with the Vaalharts Water account.

Ms Shaikh said the question on the holding of by-elections had not been answered.

The Chairperson explained that the municipality had received a court order on what should happen, but currently there were not going to be any by-elections until the issue of regulations had been clarified, and there had been assistance from the IEC on the matter.

Ms Shaikh thanked the MEC for the report and the clarity provided, and commented that the move to section 139(1)(c) was Constitutional and a part of the executive obligations. Given that the Committee was unable to fulfil its Constitutional role, she suggested that as soon as it was possible the Committee should visit the Municipality in order to see what was being done from a governance and service delivery perspective.

The Chairperson said despite not being able to fulfil its role, the Committee would note everything the Provincial Council had done and everything pertaining to the preparation for elections, the appointment of the Administrator and how the Department was supporting the municipality. The Committee would be making necessary recommendations to the House.

Lekwa Local Municipality

Mr Mandla Msibi, MEC: Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mpumalanga, said the decision had been taken by the Provincial Executive Council to place Lekwa Local Municipality under section 139 (1)(b) of the Constitution. In the invitation to the Provincial Executive Council, the Committee had requested that officials of the Executive Council, the Executive Mayor and the Administrator be present. However, the Administrator could not attend the meeting since Lekwa Municipality did not yet have one, as the Minister had not written back to the Executive Council to approve the appointment of an Administrator.

After the Sixth Administration had taken over in 2019, a strategy had been developed by COGTA in the province to visit all municipalities, but before officials of the Executive Council could visit Lekwa, officials of the municipality had visited the Executive Council owing to issues they were experiencing, including the troika of the municipality not meeting, as well as fights that were prevalent.

The Executive Council had a framework in the province for all troikas having to submit monthly reports and monthly programmes, but Lekwa was not abiding by this framework and the municipality was constantly appearing in the media for the wrong reasons. When the Executive Council invited officials of the municipality to their offices, only the Speaker and Chief Whip had attended. The Executive Mayor of the municipality had not come or attended any subsequent meetings that were arranged. The Executive Council also received letters from people complaining about the state of service delivery in the municipality.

The Executive Council and Treasury had visited Lekwa Municipality last year, since it was one of the municipalities owing a large amount to Eskom, and also one of the municipalities polluting the Vaal River. Its communities were experiencing many problems relating to service delivery, including not receiving water and electricity. It was also one of the seven distressed municipalities in the province that had been identified for special focus. Due to the infighting in the municipality, it also had a high employee turnover rate.

Under the Fifth Administration in 2018, there had been an intervention at the municipality under section 106(1)(b), after whistle-blowers had written to the then MEC, reporting corruption in the municipality. When the new Executive officials arrived in office, they had the section 106(1)(b) report, and the reason the MEC had wanted to meet with the troika of Lekwa was to present the findings of the report. This meeting could not be held due to the infighting in the municipality.

On 27 November 2019 a financial recovery plan for the municipality was presented, but there had not been any progress with the plan. Municipal officials kept on fighting the Executive Council and not allowing them to assist the municipality in terms of section 154, and in February, a council meeting was convened which resulted in the Executive Mayor and the Speaker of the Council being removed. This had led the Provincial Executive Council to decide to place the municipality under section 139(1)(b).

Three weeks ago, the Executive Council had received a letter from the President detailing how a resident under the municipality had complained about Lekwa not providing electricity to residents. The MEC had intervened in the matter by convening the entire municipal council, to tell them that the municipal manager should try to convene a meeting for a Speaker and Executive Mayor to be elected to allow for full functionality in the municipal council, so that public participation could be conducted and for there to be oversight over budget expenditure. After the Executive Council had explained that failure to elect a Speaker and an Executive Mayor would result in dissolution of the municipality, a Speaker and Executive Mayor was elected.

Executive Mayor’s input

Mr Linda Dhlamini, Executive Mayor of Lekwa, said he had been reinstated on 5 June, meaning he had not been in office since February.

Since 2018, there had been an integrated municipal support plan which had been brought by COGTA to the municipality. He confirmed that there had been challenges in the municipality, as well as an attempt to remove the Speaker in 2018. In November 2019, the financial recovery plan had been tabled to council, and had been adopted and was meant to be implemented in January, and a report from that was to be produced at the end of the month. In February, the Mayor had been removed.

At the municipal council level, some of the challenges included councillors of the governing party working with the opposition in trying to remove the Speaker, which had resulted in instability and non-cooperation in the council until the MEC addressed it at the beginning of June.

He agreed that there were challenges in stabilising council, but efforts were being made to remedy the situation. Political parties with members in the municipal council had been requested to intervene so that operations in the municipality could return to normal.

The municipal council was still waiting for a formal presentation of the section 139(1)(b), as well as a briefing on who would become Administrator of the municipality.

The Chairperson asked when the intervention had been tabled.

The Mayor explained that the provincial government had announced that Lekwa would be placed under section 139(1)(b), but the intervention had not yet been tabled to council.

Discussion

Ms Shaikh asked what was being done to fill the section 56 level posts. On basic services, the presentation had stated that 93.7% of households had access to water, but effluent discharge was impacting on water resources. The waste water treatment plant refurbishment was supposed to be completed by June 2020, but was probably impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. She asked for progress on these projects. She also asked about progress on the non-implementation of the financial recovery plan and the disclaimer audit opinion.

Mr Sileku directed the first part of his questions to the Mayor. There had been a motion of no confidence against the Mayor in February, then he had been re-elected on 5 June. Seeing that there were issues relating to the payment of Rand Water, sewage spillage into the Vaal River, issues with the payment of the Eskom bill, as well as inaccurate billing systems, he asked if the Mayor would take responsibility for the poor provision of basic services in the municipality that was happening under his leadership, and if he would be willing to resign.

On the section 106 report, he asked the MEC if the reason for the report not being tabled in Council two years after it was concluded was because -- as the media had claimed -- the report alleged that some of the members of the Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and the Regional Executive Committee (REC) of the ANC were implicated. If the MEC was serious about consequence management, he would give the Committee a commitment that the report would be dealt with at the next Council meeting.

Ms Mmola asked when the forensic investigation would be tabled, and also asked for clarity on what the MEC meant when he had said the “Executive Mayor was nowhere to be found.” During the presentation no mention had been made of the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) – was it still functional? She asked if infighting within the troika meant that the troika was not holding meetings.

MEC’s response

MEC Msibi said when councillors were elected, their task was to deliver services and adhere to the legislation of the country. Political parties were supposed to inform their deployees on how to adhere to the legislation and honour the programmes of Council.

He said the high vacancy rate was due to the people resigning from their positions soon after they had been hired, due to the infighting within the municipality. Examples were the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Director of Technical Services, who had been hired and resigned after three months. The Minister had also instructed the Executive Council to focus on filling vacancies in existing municipalities in terms of section 56 and section 57, but despite the Executive Council complying with this instruction, people had resigned from their positions. The Executive Council had then used section 156 of the Constitution to send directors, corporate and technical CFOs to the municipality.

Responding to Mr Sileku’s point, he said the Fifth Administration, under former MEC Speedy Mashilo, had appointed a forensic company to conduct a forensic audit at Lekwa Municipality. When the current Executive Council had arrived in office, a programme had been developed to talk to all municipalities, and this was when Lekwa had come to the office of the Executive Council, when the Executive Council had planned to represent the audit findings to the Municipality. The Executive Council had not been able to present the audit findings to Lekwa Municipality due to the infighting in the municipality. Since financial problems and challenges were prominent in the report, the Executive Council had decided to try dealing with them by presenting a financial recovery plan.

A municipal council meeting had been convened on 25 May 2020 to tell the council that they had been placed under section 139(1)(b). They were also informed that if they did not elect a Speaker and Executive Mayor by 12 June, the municipality would be placed under section 139(1)(c).

Referring to the question on the MPAC, MEC Msibi said nothing in the Municipality of Lekwa could function properly when even the troika was not functioning. Due to the troika’s non-functionality, municipal council meetings could not be held, which meant that MPAC also could not function.

Mayor’s response

Mayor Dhlamini agreed that political parties needed to assist in stabilising the municipal council.

Although section 106 had been invoked, the municipal council was still awaiting its tabling. 

On the filling of section 56 posts, the municipality had been advertising these positions more than three times, and one of the issues preventing these posts from being filled was the lack of competency amongst candidates. The Director of Technical Services and the Director of Planning and Economic Development had been appointed on 1 October 2019, after which the municipal council learnt that the Technical Director had resigned towards the end of March. Vacancies still open in the municipality were for CFO, Technical Director and Corporate Services. The municipality had received secondments from the Provincial Government for people to act in the vacant positions for six months, and delegates were received by the municipality on 15 June. The importance of filling these positions was key to the municipality.

He said when the Municipal Council received the disclaimer opinion at the end of November 2019, and it was supposed to be dealt with during the first Council sitting in January, along with the audit action plan, but issues had arising in the Council in February.

Regarding the motion of no confidence, among the issues raised was the role of the municipality in the spillage of sewage into the Vaal River. Working with the Department of Water and Sanitation, the Province had ensured that there were projects running to address the issue of sewage spillages from the water treatment plant and pump stations.

The municipality was also working with the district to address the issue of water quality. Water samples were being sent to a laboratory in the district, and private companies had also been hired to assist in ensuring that good results were produced. The municipality was also working with the Department of Technical Services to publicise the outcomes of the water quality tests. 

The municipality was supplying water equally to rural areas and informal settlements by using tankers. There were also borehole projects for the rural areas.

The Mayor referred to Eskom and electricity outages, and said the municipality was currently receiving 55MVA, and part of the challenge the municipality was experiencing was that as soon as 55MVA was exceeded, Eskom would trip the entire town. The municipality had created a programme to deal with load reduction, but matters that still needed to be addressed included faulty/bridged meters, illegal connections and the regulation of electricity output to communities in order to avoid the ballooning of the municipality’s account. There were court orders stating how the municipality should deal with payment of the Eskom account. Currently the municipality was working on servicing the municipality’s account and finding a way of managing the historical debt.

The issues that the municipal council was currently experiencing involved stabilising the management team. The troika that was assembled on 5 June was no longer the same troika as previously. The municipality had section 79 committees whose performance reports were available to it, and to whom the Council sometimes referred items.

He said assisting communities to access services was a collective effort, and the municipality appreciated the help it received from the district, province and national government.

Discussion

The Chairperson said the presentation and responses showed that the municipality was experiencing many challenges, and that there was financial instability with regard to Eskom, as the municipality was one of those owing Eskom a large amount despite being a relatively small municipality. Political infighting was causing instability and affecting the municipality’s ability to provide services, and this was not acceptable.

He said the Committee would be visiting the municipality as soon as stability was restored, in order to engage with officials and members of the community, and also to see the effects of the financial recovery plan in the municipality. It was up to the MEC and Executive Mayor’s teams to assess how all these issues affected good governance and service delivery in the municipality, and this would be reported to Parliament.

He added that in future the Committee would deal with the issues of JS Moroka Municipality, as they were being reported in the media.

Mr Sileku welcomed the fact that the Administrator had not been appointed yet, and urged the MEC to appoint a team that was competent, sufficient and was going to turn around the municipality so that the Committee would not be asked to give extensions.

He disagreed with the Mayor, saying that awaiting the tabling of a report was not a commitment.

It was worrisome that the MEC had had to threaten the municipal council with section 139(1)(c) before a meeting was held on 5 June, with the implication that municipal officials would lose their salaries if they failed to comply. Since salaries were no longer compromised, there was no guarantee that there would be no problems in holding municipal council meetings. He asked for a written commitment that the municipal council would meet, that the Committee received agendas of council meetings on a monthly basis, and that when the council met again, the section 106 report would be tabled in order to allow for consequence management to take place.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Sileku that the MEC needed to appoint competent people with a burning desire to turn the municipality around, and that the Committee would need to visit the municipality. In the meantime, the Committee would formulate recommendations to present to the House for adoption which would guide the municipality going forward.

Mr Mthwethwa said he thought the Chairperson would guide the Committee and make it clear that some of the matters discussed, involving the regional, provincial and branch executive committees of  the ANC, were not a part of the report and the meeting should not be closed under the impression that they were.

Mr Sileku said he used the word “alleged” to discuss the executive committees of the ANC.

The Chairperson asked Members not to flavour discussions with political connotations, and to stick to the presentations.

Ms Mmola asked the MEC to expedite the appointment of the Administrator, and to appoint people who were qualified.

The meeting was adjourned.

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