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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE
6 October 2004
MUNICIPAL DEMARCATION BOARD: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Municipal Demarcation Board PowerPoint presentation
The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) addressed the Committee on the process it was following to complete its function of demarcation of wards for the 2005-2006 local elections. The MDB discussed the legal framework in which it exists and the roles of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Minister of Provincial and Local Government and the Members of the Executive Councils (MECs) in this framework. The MDB explained the phases and time frames it followed as well as the challenges that the Board faced. Among these was the issue of a R50 million funding shortfall that would not be made up by foreign donations as happened in the past. The Committee undertook to take the funding issue up with the Minister.
The Chairperson asked the MDB representatives to address the issues of cross-border municipalities and the decrease in legislative bodies due to the change in borders with regards to the Constitutional requirement of a minimum of thirty members of a legislature. He asked the MDB to discuss the disputes in rural areas about the boundaries of wards which cut the communities of traditional leaders, how the Committee could be of assistance, the possible de-establishment of certain municipalities and how powers and functions were allocated between municipalities and districts.
Municipal Demarcation Board briefing
Mr V Mlokoti (MDB: Eastern Cape) addressed the Committee on the background of the MDB and its core functions of determining municipal boundaries, the delimitation of wards every five years and the annual assessment of the capacity of municipalities to perform their functions. He discussed the legal framework surrounding the MDB. The IEC certified the voters roll, the Minister determined the formula for the number of councillors, the MECs must determine the number of councillors in the municipal councils and the MDB determines the number of wards and the norm for the number of votes per ward. The issue of cross boundaries needed to be addressed by the Minister. He explained that the criteria for delimitation requires each ward to have approximately the same number of voters, while taking into account the possible fragmentation of communities, identifiable boundaries, the safety of the voters and other physical factors. Mr Mlokoti described the different phases of the MDB's delimitation process and explained that Phase Two's public consultation would begin in October. He closed by discussing the funding difficulties and the challenges the MDB had experienced.
Mr Mlokoti commented that Section 84(2) of the Municipal Systems Act of 2000 (MSA) listed the powers and functions of local municipalities. Section 85 of the MSA empowered the MDB to recommend adjustments to these powers and functions if after assessment it finds the municipality has no capacity to perform its functions. If a municipality could not translate its powers and functions into programs, its existence must be reviewed. The MDB identified 42 municipalities for possible de-establishment of which it isolated 12 as definite cases. The MDB will not de-establish municipalities until the Section 154 Constitutional responsibility of provincial government of enabling municipalities is addressed. Mr Mlokoti said that local government in SA was very young and needed to given another term to overcome teething problems. He asked if the MDB assessments should be done annually.
Mr W Le Roux (DA) enquired if the MDB shortfall of R50 million was to just finish its delimitations or also to fulfil its oversight capacity. He asked what the consequences would be if the MDB did not receive foreign donations within its timeframes and what the MDB's main items of expense were.
Mr D Worth (DA) said that there was a flow of people from rural to urban areas. He asked if this increase would mean more wards in municipalities or increasing the number of people in each ward, thereby keeping the number of councillors the same.
Mr Z Ntuli (ANC) asked how the MDB took the unregistered people in the wards into account and how voters were transferred from one ward to another as they had to register manually. He enquired about the methods being used to develop and build the capacity of the councillors.
Mr V Windvoel (ANC) commented that most of the issues raised could not be answered by the MDB but by the IEC and other bodies. He continued that the decision to introduce wards was the correct decision and that time must be allowed for a learning curve and correction of teething problems. He said that not all boundaries of wards were correct as some wards had fragmented communities. He held that the Portfolio Committee and the Committee had jointly taken up the issue of the MDB's financial constraints with the Minister but that costs should be curtailed so that priority areas were not affected. He added that the democratic principle of consultation was essential and asked how the MDB evaluated and used public input.
The Chairperson mentioned that it would be preferable if the MDB could give reasons for not using the public submissions, taking into consideration the cost involved.
Mr A Moseki (ANC) asked if the window for submissions was flexible or if it had closed. He said that the limiting of public hearings to an area of priority was understandable but asked what was being done to reach the rural areas. He asked if any of the 12 municipalities identified for de-establishment were in the North West Province.
Mr Mlokoti responded that the R50 million shortfall was solely for the delimitation of wards and the breakdown of these costs was in the presentation. He continued that while the MDB had previously engaged in activities outsides its core functions, the present shortfall was to fulfil its core functions. The MDB was not awaiting any further foreign donations and the R2 million donation it had previously received from Norway was the last of its kind. Its main areas of expense were geographic information systems and computers, as it was a computer driven organisation. Up to date mapping was vital for the delimitation and the MSA required the MDB to advertise its decisions, market its programs and print its decisions in the Government Gazette, which were all expensive. Extensive consultation with the public was also an expensive exercise. The MBD was a lean organisation with only 23 permanent members of staff and a national office in Pretoria. It employed temporary staff in the provinces to reduce costs but this was still expensive.
He reiterated that the requested funding was to cover not only delimitations but that the MDB still had to access municipalities on this funding. It was not requesting money to fulfil any other role. For these reasons it relied on municipalities to help provide advertising and venues for public consultation. He answered that the number of councillors and the cost of increasing the sizes of the wards was not a decision the MBD could make. The MECs had the prerogative to increase or decrease the number of councillors. With 2,9 million new registered voters the number of Members of Parliament did not increase but the MECs had increased the number of councillors which would increase the cost of municipalities.
The responsibility of accommodating unregistered people lay with the IEC and the IEC knew that some people had not registered due to their dissatisfaction with the demarcation of wards. He responded that the MDB was not involved with capacity building, only accessing the capacities of the municipalities according to the powers and functions given to them by the legislation. He remarked that it was of vital importance to investigate the role of provincial government in assisting municipal government. Provincial officers lacked knowledge of the workings of local governments that had to prepare by-laws and interpret legislation. He continued that no compromise on public consultations had been made but that the quality of the consultation would be affected by financial constraints. The public submissions added value and were all considered but many of them did not comply with the legislation. The MDB advised members of the public if their submissions did not comply. He responded that the closing date for provincial submissions was 30 November 2004, while the public submissions began on 25 October 2004. After these dates there would still be time for objections. On the issue of de-establishment, he answered that the MDB had withdrawn all municipalities from being de-established but it had identified problematic municipalities. These would only be de-established if the problems persisted.
Mr Moseki asked how many of these problematic municipalities were in the North West Province.
Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC) commented that the Committee had made a plea to the Minister for the MDB and that it would follow this plea up. He added that the growing honesty of the DMB of owning up to its shortcomings of the past encouraged the Committee to support its pleas.
The Chairperson added that the Committee was committed to adding its voice to the MDB's request for finances and it would also make a plea to the Minister of Finance. The values and norms of the MDB had to be protected. He said that the first round of delimitations were available on the Internet.
Mr Mlokoti answered that none of the problematic municipalities were in the North West Province and that the website address was www.demarcation.org.za
The Chairperson asked the MDB to outline the areas that needed to be changed in point form in its next presentation to the Committee. He added that the issue of cross border municipalities would not always be satisfactorily addressed for all people.
The meeting was adjourned.