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PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 October 2005
CROSS-BOUNDARY MUNICIPAL LAWS REPEAL BILL: BRIEFING AND INPUT FROM TWO MUNICIPALITIES
Chairperson: Mr L Tsenoli (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Cross-Boundary Municipalities Laws Repeal Bill [B36-2005]
Municipal Demarcation Board presentation: Part1 and Part 2
Municipal Demarcation Board Press Statement
The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) presented background on the reasons for the disestablishment of cross-boundary municipalities and the process followed thus far. Opportunity for public comment had been availed to affected communities. The Board did not have a mandate to change provincial boundaries and focused solely on municipal and ward re-determination. All proposals remained provisional until the process had been finalised. Matatiele and Bohlabela municipalities presented a synopsis of their respective positions regarding the proposed disestablishment of cross-boundary municipalities.
Members asked various questions including the finalisation of maps within the Bill, detail on objections received by the MDB, whether dialogue existed between the MDB and relevant provincial governments, possible legal challenges to the Bill, the nature of additional funding requests from the MDB and the involvement of the poor and marginalised in consultation processes.
Municipal Demarcation Board presentation
Dr V Mlokoti (MDB Chairperson) provided background on the decision to disestablish cross-boundary municipalities. A Section 26 notice had been published on 2 September 2005 to allow public comment. A large amount of submissions had been received and the Board interrogated them within a review process. The Board did not have a mandate to deal with provincial boundaries. Demarcation proposals had to be in line with the Demarcation Act and the Constitution. Municipal boundaries proposals were currently provisional as the Constitution Twelfth Amendment Bill and the Repeal Bill still had to be adopted. Detail was provided on various proposed changes within certain provinces. Strict timeframes for the process were in place. All work should be completed by 9 December. A meeting of the Committee with the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development was deemed appropriate. The Board re-determinations were not final and objections were expected and would be considered in an impartial manner.
The Chairperson acknowledged the tight timeframes and stated that the registration of all voters for the local government elections was imperative. The changes were intended to improve service delivery. Submissions received by the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and the MDB were of equal importance and relevance.
Mr P Smith (IFP) indicated that the MDB appeared to consider the creation of a cross-boundary municipality in order to effect desired changes as appropriate. He asked whether this was the correct assumption. Maps in the Bill had to be correct and the passing of the Bill depended on correction if need be.
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) asked whether the MDB could raise areas of importance highlighted within the public submissions process for the benefit of Members’ interaction with affected communities.
Mr M Swathe (DA) sought clarity on the future of the Greater Groblersdal area and what would happen to the existing District Municipality.
Mr M Nonkonyana (ANC) asked what timeframe would be involved in the creation and subsequent disestablishment of a municipality between the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal provinces. He asked whether the Department anticipated legal challenges to the proposed alterations. The future of the Alfred Nzo District Municipality had to be explained.
Mr M Lekgoro (ANC) asked whether political pressure had played a role in the decision to disestablish certain cross-boundary municipalities.
Mr W Doman (DA) asserted the need for affected communities to object to proposals that were problematic. He asked whether sufficient opportunity existed for such communities to voice objections.
Dr Mlokoti replied that the assessment of the capacity of municipalities was a separate process to the evaluation undertaken to disestablish cross-boundary municipalities. A separate list of non-viable municipalities had been produced. Presently, the Alfred Nzo municipality would be disestablished as a result of proposed changes but this decision remained provisional until all objections had been received. The Local Government elections would not occur in December as much work still had to be done. The Minister would announce the date in due course. Provincial legislatures would be involved in the process if provincial boundaries were to be altered. The issue of provincial boundaries remained outside the scope of the MDB. The National Assembly would deliberate on implications for provincial boundaries and adopt new boundaries. Municipalities would be located within final provincial boundaries.
Dr P Bouwer (Department Legal Advisor) reiterated that the adjustment of provincial boundaries was a political decision to be reached within the National Assembly as part of the Constitutional Amendment Bill. MDB determinations would have to fall within the final framework and the revisiting of certain maps might be required.
Mr Smith asked whether ongoing dialogue occurred between the MDB and relevant provincial governments.
Mr Mshudulu asked for detail on guiding principles that determined the Carltonville case. He asked whether assessment of municipal capacity played a role.
Dr Mlokoti stated that no interaction occurred between provincial governments and the MDB regarding possible provincial boundary changes. Interaction had only occurred between the MDB and the Minister. The Municipal Demarcation Act contained 13 guiding principles for the establishment of municipal boundaries and detail on objectives of the government in relation to municipal demarcation. The interdependence of certain municipalities was considered when contemplating the viability of the location of municipalities.
Mr Nonkonyana asked whether the Trengrove Report had been considered in the assessment process.
Ms Mashiane asked whether additional funding requests from the MDB were linked to future work to be engaged with or referred to present needs.
Dr Mlokoti replied that the Trengrove Report had been considered and the additional financial request was for unforeseen work that might arise and where funding would be urgently required.
Matatiele Municipality presentation
Mr C Conham (Mayor) provided reasons for the negative responses to MDB proposals from the Matatiele region. The area had a history of displacement and concomitant unhappiness and discontent. The region was characterised by poor service delivery and inferior road infrastructure. Proposed changes would impact adversely on service delivery. The area desired to remain part of Kwazulu-Natal. Access roads to KZN were being built and electricity was supplied from Durban. A housing project was underway and approximately 80 000 households suffered from service backlogs. An improvement in the Intergovernmental Transfer had occurred over the past five years but the total remained low relative to needs. The region relied to a large extent on rates to finance service delivery.
Bohlabela District Municipality presentation
Mr C Maluleke (Mayor) reminded Members of the history of unrest within the Bushbuckridge region. The cross-boundary arrangement had helped at the time and objections existed to the proposed incorporation into a new District municipality. The removal of the current arrangement could cause instability. The municipality was opposed to the proposed disestablishment as the new District would be responsible for a larger area that would be difficult to service correctly.
Ms Mabusa (ANC) asked whether information to the Minister from the Department and MDB was co-ordinated. A guiding framework to complete the process was necessary and adequate consultation had to accompany the exercise.
Mr Mshudulu stated that the issue of consultation should not be used regularly as an excuse to criticise the process. Extensive public comment had been received by relevant entities.
Mr Nonkonyana reminded the presenter that opportunities had existed for the municipality to raise objections in a stipulated manner in accordance with regulations.
Mr Maluleke stated that levels of dissatisfaction could result in further unrest if issues were not resolved procedurally. Communities were unhappy with some proposals. Migrant labor tended to move towards Mpumalanga which had to be acknowledged in the decision-making process. Guiding principles for municipalities had been considered when the municipality adopted a position opposed to the proposal.
The Chairperson concurred that the consultation process was an important component of the exercise and reasons for decisions taken had to be clearly communicated. He reiterated that no final decisions had been taken. Government had to improve communication in certain instances.
Mr Nonkonyana acknowledged that consultation remained a sensitive issue and had to be dealt with carefully. The opinion of people on the ground had to be established. The views of the poor and marginalised were of particular importance. Differences should be addressed by means of compromise.
Dr Mlokoti reminded Members of the 30-day period allowed for submission of objections.
The meeting was adjourned.