In a virtual meeting, the Select Committee received a briefing from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the objects of the Municipal Authority Demarcation Bill.
The Chairperson said he had been part of the panel interviewing the new members of the Demarcation Board, and it was clear that a lot of things needed to be done to ensure that the board was effective and achieved its own pre-determined objectives.
The Department provided details of the contents of the Bill. It said it was aligned to section 155(3)(b) of the Constitution, which requires that national legislation must “establish criteria and procedures for the determination of municipal boundaries by an independent authority."
A Member asked for clarification on the reasons for extending the deviation on the delimitation of wards from 15% to 30%. There was general support for a proposal that the Bill's progress should not be rushed ahead of the end of the parliamentary term, so there was adequate consultation with the provincial legislatures and the general public.
The Chairperson welcomed all Members and officials to the first meeting of the year, and said the Committee would be briefed on the Municipal Authority Demarcation Bill that the National Assembly had passed. A few weeks ago, he was part of the interviewing panel that interviewed the new members of the Demarcation Board, and it was an exciting process. It had become clear that a lot of things needed to be done to ensure that the board was effective and achieved its own pre-determined objectives.
Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill [B14 - 2022]
Dr Kevin Naidoo, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Institutional Development, CoGTA, said the Bill had been submitted to Parliament and the presentation had been shared with all the Committee Members. He gave a timeline of its progress:
·23 March 2022 -- Cabinet approved the Bill be introduced into Parliament;
·15 June 2022 -- Explanatory summary of the Bill and prior notice of introduction (Rule 276 of the National Assembly (NA));
·21 June 2022 -- Announcements, Tablings and Committees (ATC) Report. Bill introduced into the NA, and referred to the CoGTA Portfolio Committee
·March 2023 -- CoGTA Portfolio Committee published the Bill for comments. Closing date 10 March 2023, extended to 15 June 2023.
Dr Naidoo said the Bill was made up of five chapters and over fifty-two sections.
Chapter One dealt with the definitions and purpose of the Act.
Chapter Two dealt with the establishment, status, functions, and powers of the Authority, its board, administration, staff, and finances.
Chapter Three dealt with the criteria for the determination or redetermination of municipal boundaries, and public participation in the process; the delimitation of wards; and the demarcation appeals Authority.
Chapter Four dealt with municipal capacity assessments.
Chapter Five dealt with regulations and guidelines, offences and penalties, the amendment of laws, transitional arrangements, the short title and commencement.
Dr Naidoo said the Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill aligns to section 155(3)(b) of the Constitution, which requires that national legislation must “establish criteria and procedures for the determination of municipal boundaries by an independent authority.”
The COGTA Portfolio Committee has made the following proposals:
The composition of the Board must broadly reflect the composition of South African society.
A member of the board must also have the necessary relevant qualifications.
Remove “integrated development” from the objectives of the determination or redetermination of municipal boundaries.
The Authority may establish appropriate mechanisms, processes and procedures, as stipulated in section 17 of the Municipal Systems Act, to enable members of the public to participate in the demarcation processes of the Authority.
(See presentation for details)
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) said he felt strongly that the Committee should make a resolution to follow the process expected of them regarding public participation. It should not short-circuit the process, but follow through thoroughly.
Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo) said it was encouraging that the amendments that were being effected in the Bill took into consideration lessons that had been learnt in previous municipal processes, as well as the fact that they had managed to get input from present and previous boards. The demarcation process had resulted in community dissatisfaction on many occasions and complaints of municipalities that had become more dysfunctional through this process. She drew attention to clause 33, which deals with the delimitation of wards, and which may not deviate by more than 30%. However, it may do so in terms of sectional circumstances in clause 35. She said there should be clarity about what was meant by that.
Mr R Badenhorst (DA, Western Cape) seconded the proposal by Mr Smit, and said that the Committee was running out of time. It seemed like everything was now being rushed through, and he thanked the Chairperson for raising this matter. It was essential for the provinces to have the opportunity to provide their input on this Bill.
Dr Naidoo responded on the issue relating to community protests and dissatisfaction, and said he did not think that the process of redetermination and determination, and the delimitation of inner boundaries, would make everyone happy all the time. Strict guidelines had to be adhered to when finalising inner and outer boundaries, and a balanced approach was needed.
Responding to Ms Shaikh, he said the legislation tried to mitigate the situation by moving the 15% to 30%. In practice, that meant that if the norm was 10 000 in a municipality, each ward presently may not defer by 8 500 (15%) or by 1 150. Thus, neighbouring wards in that municipality may have this range, but trying to keep the numbers intact would result in areas being split, and a way to mitigate that was to deviate by 30%. This meant that the municipality had the option of looking at the 30% when it came to ward delimitation. However, the very strict criteria in the Act had to be adhered to, and to ensure that there was transparency in those instances, it had to be published in the Government Gazette for public comment before the implementation of the 30%.
Referring to the issue of capacity assessment, Dr Naidoo said that in the early days, the Demarcation Board was popular and known for its capacity assessments. Stakeholders worldwide would rely on capacity assessments to inform the work they were doing. He believed that the board could go back to those glory days by lifting its profile, but resources would be needed, and the Department would have to see how it could support the board in whatever interventions they would initiate.
Regarding the section 46, 47 and 48 reports, what the Department had learnt was that by the time that these reports came to fruition, the information they contained would have become quite dated, as it would have been 18 months to two years by the time the Minister would be required to submit them to Parliament. The Department was at the stage of putting in steps to make sure that it reviewed the local government system.
The Chairperson thanked Dr Naidoo and his team for the Department's responses. He then invited Mr Moses Manele, Committee Secretary, to explain the next steps for processing the Bill.
Mr Manele said that noting the concerns of Members with regard to the limited time, the secretariat would draft a programme that would be tabled and submitted for political approval by the House, and then shared with the provincial legislatures and the Department. He hoped this programme could be completed by the end of March.
Dr Naidoo said that the Free State provincial legislature scheduled an engagement for the following day, and the Department had been requested to make a similar presentation to the one made today. The Department would be available to provide this support, as it would like to see this piece of legislation come to fruition.
Mr Smit referred to the end of the parliamentary term, and said there was an option to revive the legislation in the new term. Additionally, he had proposed a resolution to the Committee, which had been seconded. As it seemed that there were no objections, he would like it to be recorded as a decision of the Committee. The resolution proposed that the Committee would ensure that proper public participation would take place in all the provinces during this process, as they were under pressure to rush, but there was a need to ensure due diligence was given to the legislation so that the best possible legislation was produced.
The meeting was adjourned.
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