The Committee was supposed to consider and process the invocation of section 139 (1) (b) in the municipalities of Nquthu and Mkhanyakude in KZN. The meeting was however postponed due to the absence of key officials including the mayors, council speakers and MEC - the MEC had to be present as he invoked the intervention in the municipalities and the Committee needed to hear directly from him.
Members lamented the absence of the officials noting the constitutional importance of the meeting as this was a crucial step before the intervention could fully get underway. Further, Parliament was in recess and the Committee would need to make a special appeal to hold a meeting during the recess.
The Chairperson officially opened the meeting and welcomed everyone present especially the two municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal where Section 139 (1)(b) of the Constitution was invoked by the provincial government.
Mr X Ngwezi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) asked whether the meeting could continue without the MEC especially since the MEC was responsible for invoking Section 139 (1)(b) in the municipalities. He said that the MEC had to be present.
The Chairperson said the attendance of municipal officials had to be verified before any questions about the MEC can be posed.
Mr Mxolisi Nkosi, Municipal Manager: uMkhanyakude District Municipality, said that the mayor will not be attending the meeting as he was attending to urgent matters and that uMkhanyakude had been without electricity since 05:00, which is another reason why the virtual attendance of the municipality is poor. He highlighted that the mayor and administrator were struggling with connectivity and may not be attending the meeting.
The Chairperson asked whether the other political parties in the municipality are available to attend the meeting or are present.
Mr Nkosi said that an email was sent to all the relevant individuals who were the mayor, municipal manager, MPAC chairperson and the municipal speaker.
The Chairperson asked who is representing the Nquthu municipality.
Cllr Zama Shabalala, Mayor: Nquthu Municipality, introduced himself as the mayor of Nquthu municipality.
Mr Sthembiso Mthembu, Municipal Manager: Nquthu Municipality, also introduced himself and said that a challenge had been that the meeting had been postponed five times already which had affected the attendance of other officials of the municipality.
Mr Ngwezi said that the rescheduling of the meeting should not be an excuse for officials not attending the meeting.
Cllr Joe Motloung from Nquthu Municipality announced his attendance.
The Chairperson said that a provincial government invokes section 139 (1)(b) in a municipality because of some severe issues within the municipality and said that guidance is needed from the Committee. The meeting could have been postponed but there are important matters to discuss.
The Chairperson noted that a majority of the senior leadership officials were not present in the meeting from both the municipalities and said that Parliament is going on recess. If the processing of the invocation of section 139 in uMkhanyakude is not done, then anything that is done afterwards will be unconstitutional. Another solution is for the Committee to request a special dispensation to have the meeting during the recess period, which may not be allowed. He opened the floor to other Members.
Mr Ngwezi said that the discussion on the way forward should not be discussed in the presence of guests because there are matters that might be taken in a different light. He requested that the meeting be postponed without violating the constitutionality of the issues of section 139 because there are stakeholders who are not present who need to provide their side of the story in both municipalities, especially the MEC. There is an urgent need to meet and when a new meeting date has been set, the meeting should not be attended in the afternoon because of the electricity issues. He also thanked the officials who were able to attend the meeting.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) supported the suggestion to postpone the meeting and that the deadline is met. Time can be made in the following week to hold the meeting. He appealed that every stakeholder be present in the next meeting.
Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) supported the suggestion to postpone the meeting and said that the Committee should try to communicate with the municipality officials because it is unacceptable for both the mayor and the speaker to be absent from the meeting.
Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo) agreed that a special dispensation will have to be requested for the meeting to be held.
Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) said that the Committee is putting itself under pressure because those who were supposed to be present in the meeting were not. If proper assessments want to be made, then the MEC has to be present in the meeting. The meeting will have to be postponed because the executive authority that invoked the section is not present.
Ms C Visser (DA, North West) supported the suggestions made by the other Members and said that it is disrespectful for the officials not to attend the meeting.
The Chairperson said that the meeting will be postponed and that engagements will be held with the leaders of Parliament to request a special dispensation in the following week to have a proper meeting. The process is very important because once a municipality is placed under administration, it means that the municipality is in trouble and intervention is not easy but a drastic decision.
The reasons for the invoking of section 139 (1)(b) in the municipalities need to be carefully heard and considered. The absence of the MEC will not be blamed on anyone until the reasons of his absence are understood.
The Chairperson said that if the special dispensation for the meeting is not approved then the Committee will have to find a way of meeting in the following week. Communication will be forwarded on the rescheduled meeting. The Committee has to exercise its oversight role.
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