District Management Areas: Municipal Demarcation Board briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

20 November 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 November 2007
DISTRICT MANAGEMENT AREAS: MUNICIPAL DEMARCATION BOARD BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Municipal Demarcation Board: Future of District Management Areas
The Future of District Management Areas: First Draft Discussion Document

Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
The Municipal Demarcation Board briefed the Committee on the future of District Management Areas. These had been established in areas of low population, areas of national and international areas, and conservation areas. At present there were twenty. The Municipal Demarcation Board was unhappy with the situation and wished to overhaul the system before the local elections in 2011. Three options had been tabled. One was to simply maintain the status quo. The second was to review the current District Management Areas and only retain those that were National Parks or areas of local or international significance. The third option, which was the preferred one for the Board, was to withdraw all the declarations of these areas and incorporate them into existing municipal structures. Many reasons were offered for this preference, and a proposal was tabled about how the change would be affected.

There had been consultation in the provinces and with national departments. However, some departments, especially the Department of Provincial and Local Government, had been slow to respond. It was planned to publish the proposal after the Board met on 6 December 2007, after which there would be a time period for objections. The boundaries would have to be finalised by May 2008 if the Independent Electoral Commission was to be able to make the necessary arrangements for the elections.

Members were concerned about the consultation process, and that the timing of the objection period coinciding with the traditional holiday period. There was concern about the capacity of municipalities to offer services in the District Management Areas. Members were also concerned that any changes to boundaries should take racial sensitivities into account as well avoiding unnecessary disruption of communities. The South African Local Government Association was also trying to get responses to the Board’s proposals.

MINUTES
District Management Areas (DMA): Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) Briefing
Mr Vuyo Mlokoti, Chairperson, Municipal Demarcation Board, said that when a notice had been published about the proposed changes to District Management Area (DMA) policy, there had had been some confusion. He had received a call from a councillor in the Eastern Cape who had understood the abbreviation DMA to mean Disadvantaged Municipal Areas.

Mr Hillary Monare, Chief Executive Officer, MDB, said that there was no Constitutional provision for DMAs. The Board may declare a DMA in any area where it was not feasible to establish a local municipality. The objectives of declaring a municipal body were to enable that municipality to fulfil its mandate, to establish democratic government, to encourage service delivery and to develop a safe environment. It should promote effective local government, encourage integrated development and establish a taxation base. Any declaration could be withdrawn. The MDB was required to consult with the national Minister and responsible Member of the Executive Council (MEC).

Mr Monare said that during 1999 a policy document had been accepted defining the types of areas that could be declared as a DMA. These were essentially low population areas such as deserts, state protected areas and conservation areas. The MDB had declared 25 DMAs in 2000, mainly in the Northern Cape, Western Cape) and. Eastern Cape. Some of these were National Parks. District municipalities were expected to provide municipal functions while conservation bodies often preferred to provide services in the national parks.

Mr Monare said that the Board had reconsidered the usefulness of some of these areas prior to the 2006 election. A new policy had been proposed that only National Parks and areas of national and international significance would qualify. Accordingly six DMAs were disestablished. The Kruger Park DMA was divided into two, which left the tally at twenty. A policy review had started after the elections, and a discussion document was released in July 2007. That review had identified three options. The first was to maintain the current situation of the twenty DMAs. The second was to review all the DMAs and to declare that only national parks and areas of national and international significance would maintain their DMA status. The third option, which was the preferred one for the MDB, was to withdraw all the declarations and incorporate the affected areas into neighbouring local municipalities and wards.

Mr Monare listed the numerous reasons for the Board’s preference. The first reason was that the applicable legislation was unclear and confusing. There was no reference to DMAs in the Constitution, and they had been added as an afterthought. It was not conducive to establish a local municipality in DMA areas. In terms of the Structures Act, the withdrawal of DMA status could only come into effect at the following election, while the MEC could set his own date in terms of the Demarcation Act. There was also confusion about the terms used to describe the inclusion of a disestablished DMA into another structure.

Mr Monare said the second reason was that many national parks, World Heritage Sites (WHS) and Trans-Frontier Parks (TFP) had never been declared as DMAs. The third reason was that it was not possible to declare a DMA that spanned international boundaries, such as Great Limpopo TFP, which stretched into Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The fourth reason was that it was not legal to declare a DMA inside a metro area, as was the case with the Table Mountain national park. The fifth reason was that there was sometimes a mismatch between the boundaries of a DMA and a national park, TFP or WHS. An example was the Bontebok & Agulhas National Park.

A DMA could not straddle a provincial boundary, whereas a national park could. This was the case with the Tsitsikamma National Park. The seventh reason was that some DMAs were split by boundaries of district municipalities. The eighth reason was that the boundaries of national parks could change from time to time. Since 1994 new parks had opened and a total of 176 000 hectares had been added to the land space of national parks. A number of changes had been requested to the boundaries between DMAs and municipalities. A ninth reason was that there were different criteria for national park and DMA boundaries. A tenth reason was the confusion around the performance of power and functions. In a DMA the district municipality had all municipal powers and functions. This resulted in a two-tier system, which was questionable. Some district councils said they performed municipal functions in DMAs, but this was not always the case.

Mr Monare noted that the eleventh reason was the imbalance in population, the equitable share formula and the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG). The population in these areas was insignificant compared to the national figures. The population in the twenty DMAs was approximately 82 000, compared to the national figure of 48 million. In 2004 there had been approximately 37 000 voters, compared to the national figure of about 20 million. The equitable share was R74 million, compared to the national total of R20 billion. The MIG due to the DMAs was R32 million, compared to the national total of R7.5 billion. He presented detailed figures for each DMA.

Yet a further reason was that not many municipalities would be affected. Another was that the electoral system within DMAs was unnecessarily complicated. There were two proportional representation votes for each voter, and an easier system could be found. Only registered voters in DMAs could exercise their votes in local municipalities. Only seven DMAs had more than the minimum number of voters per ward compared to adjacent municipalities. In three DMAs there had been fewer than 100 voters each, and in only three did the number of voters exceed 1 000. There were vast differences in the ratio of voters to councillors. In the Chris Hani District Municipality there were just 35 voters per councillor, while in Umkhanyakude there were 5 937. Finally, the Councillor to voter ratio was a concern, as Councillors represented geographic areas but voter weight per Councillor differed.

Mr Monare presented a proposal of which DMAs should be passed over to which local municipalities. This was fully outlined in the presentation (see attached document).

Mr Monare then discussed the required timeframes. The process would have to be completed before the delineation for the 2011 local elections. The Board would consider the proposals at a meeting on 6 December 2007. Workshops had been held throughout the country. The general opinion supported the Board in its preference for option three. There were some cases where there was a preference to retain the status quo, or for boundary changes. From now until January 2008 there would be a period for objections to be tendered. The legal process would be completed by May 2008, so that the new boundaries could be handed over to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for alignment.

Mr Mlokoti said that the MDB had consulted with national departments and all other stakeholders. There had been no response from some, particularly the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG). There had been a response from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), but they had sent confusing signals. The Minister of Finance supported the Board’s proposal. MECs had given varying degrees of support. The Free State was positive. It was clear that there was some agreement on the incorporation of the DMAs into other municipal structures.

He said that cross-border municipalities had proved to be a failed experiment, and this would be reviewed. Districts were rendering all local government functions but had shared responsibility. Capacity must then be provided. There was a contradiction within the DMAs, and additional functions were needed for the districts. There had been a meeting with the DEAT in regard to the question of national parks and municipalities. Municipalities should provide wall-to-wall services. They must perform in their areas. DMAs were entities within their areas, and there were no rebates. There had to be some agreement. National parks were often run as islands. The confusion suggested that DMAs were independent. The number of registered voters had to be considered.

Discussion
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) said that this was one area that politicians struggled to understood unless there was direct involvement. During an oversight visit in 2002/03 to the Cacadu region of the Eastern Cape it was apparent that the issue was political, and that attempts were made to run the neighbouring DMA without resources. The presentation would need another run through with the affected municipalities. It was an issue of power and funding. In the North West the “old owners” practiced anti-government politics. It might be necessary there to have direct political engagement.

The Chairperson asked how many DMAs preferred to maintain the status quo, and the reason for this attitude.

Mr Mlokoti said that there was support in the Northern Cape. The Siyanda DMA had supported the proposal at first, but later said they wished the status quo to remain. There should be a written submission, as there were no strong arguments.

The Chairperson asked which areas were contested.

Mr Mlokoti thought that the Golden Gate Highlands DMA should rather go into Dithabe, not Maluti a Phofung. In the Northern Cape, Umshamane was subject to mining interests. MDB had been advised to hold a meeting in the district. There were issues involving amalgamation. Submissions had been made several times on the consequences of the process. The formulas used for grants did not take into account the distances involved in some areas. The Northern Cape was a big problem due to its small population; in the whole province there were approximately the same number of people as in Buffalo City. The situation would be discussed with the Department of Finance. There were contested areas, such as the Denel facility in the Overberg. There was an objection to the proposed boundary change there.

The Chairperson asked it the consultation process had been left to the municipalities.

Mr Mlokoti replied that they had been allowed a month to comment. This period had ended on 8 August. National Departments and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) had been given until 30 August. MBD realised that not much had been done, and the deadlines had been extended until September. A notice had then been placed in the Government Gazette, with an extension for comment until 20 November 2007. Workshops had been held in the provinces, assisted by the responsible provincial departments. Almost all stakeholders, and all the provinces, had prepared an agenda and made presentations. The last of these had been held in the Chris Hani district on 15 November. All had been well attended.

The Chairperson asked in which areas the DPLG had not attended, and which other departments had responded.

Mr Mlokoti said there was no response from the DPLG. The MDB had met with management of DPLG on 14 July. Feedback had been promised by 8 August, but nothing had happened. He had met with the Minister, and was assured of a response, but still nothing resulted. On 22 October MDB had held a meeting with the IEC and DPLG. Once again, MDB had been assured of a response soon. There had been discussions with the technical team of the IEC, but again DPLG had not responded. The DEAT had missed the first meeting and had then produced contradictory responses. There had been some comment from the South African Police Services. There was no separate view in the provinces. There had been no response from SALGA. There had been some response from the Northern and Western Cape provinces. Western Cape had in fact held very useful consultations. Publishing the request in the Government Gazette had been a trigger to remind the stakeholders to respond. The publishing date of the proposals had been determined as 6 December.

The Chairperson cautioned that this was leading into the festive situation, and could be a delicate situation with many decision makers on holiday.

Mr Mlokoti responded that publication might be postponed until January 2008.

Mr Robert Willemse, Head of Research, MDB, suggested that the proposals be published in December as planned, but that the period for comment and objections be extended.

The Chairperson thought that there would be no response in December.

Mr Mshudulu asked if there was an assessment report on affected municipalities. Capacity might be a problem. He asked when MDB would begin to engage with them.

The Chairperson asked how additional input would be cross referenced to time lines. There might have to be some preliminary decisions taken.

Mr Mshudulu said that the proposals should not be seen as conditions. A report was needed to help understanding.

The Chairperson said there was then no problem. An initial briefing had been followed up with more comprehensive discussions. The consultation process was of key concern.

Mr Lance Joel, Executive Director: Governance and IGR, SALGA, said that SALGA had attempted to consult with members. They would get comment from municipalities. It was the same experience as earlier, and there were delays in the process. There had been internal discussions and there was an agreement to support the MDB. SALGA was following its own internal process and some political sanction was needed. A formal response would be sent during the week. The question was how to subdivide the DMAs into four Local Municipalities without creating problems. There were some transitional arrangements in place, but these should be concluded in time for the 2011 local election.

The Chairperson said the Committee was concerned over the splitting of DMAs, as it was not keen on the concept of splitting a community. There would have to be a strong argument for this to be done. He was concerned that DPLG had not responded and the Committee would want to know why. There had been many extensions on the feedback process, and he wondered how this affected the time frames. He asked if the delays experienced by SALGA were partly due to DPLG’s lack of response or due to other internal matters. He asked if the time frames were adequate, and noted that more time might be necessary for consultation.

Mr R Sonto (ANC) said that he had listened with interest. He asked if the proposals of MDB would reverse the gains of racial integration, or assist the process. There were downsides to some of the aspects of the process. He asked what disruption would result. He referred to the situation in Cape Town where the mayor had changed the boundaries of sub-councils to suit a political environment. He asked if this was acceptable or legal.

Mr Mshudulu asked if it would not be possible to work backwards from the local election deadlines. He asked if the demarcation would be feasible. Firm time frames would be needed.

Mr Mlokoti said that capacity reports had been received, and would be discussed at the Board meeting on 6 December. A capacity review had been taking place since July. It would be useful to advise the responsible MECs. They had commented on the DMA proposals and submissions had been made. A submission had been made to DPLG to consider the proposal of doing away with DMAs. The splitting of DMAs would be considered mainly in the Northern Cape, where there were vast uninhabited areas. The question of how to make the divisions would be considered carefully. Certain patterns had been noticed.

He said that the council boundaries in Cape Town were an issue of sub-council areas. The government of Cape Town had met with the MDB, and there had been some consultation. The MDB had made its views known, but they had been disregarded. The proposals had been republished, and in his opinion were narrow-minded. The MEC had attempted to intervene. There were some proposals to increase the number of sub-councils and the City had consulted the MEC. There were many concerns, but it was a political discussion. The legislation said that the City may consult the MDB, but there was no legal resource if the City failed to follow their recommendations.

Mr Mlokoti said that there had been many extensions already in the time frame for comment, and there was really no more room for extension. Communities had been slow to respond to the published advertisement but were quick to respond with objections once the proposals had been made public. Most responses came during the objection period when stakeholders knew how the Board was thinking.

He said that MDB had met with the Minister. A White Paper would be produced if the issue was problematic. The MDB would not be able to make any more boundary changes after May 2008 because of the needs of the IEC. This applied to the outer boundaries of municipal areas. It would be too late to publish a draft White Paper in June. Strict time frames had been set, and he hoped that the communities would respect these.

Mr Mlokoti said that they would take into account the need for racial integration, although this was a sensitive issue. Sensitivity must be respected in determining boundaries, but at the same time it must be remembered that there was a very small population in the affected areas.

Mr Mshudulu asked if the Committee must endorse the proposal at this meeting.

The Chairperson reiterated that three options had been presented, namely to maintain the status quo, to declare all national parks as DMAs, or to withdraw all DMA declarations.

Mr Mshudulu said that the Committee had already engaged on the third of these options. It was linked to the White Paper process. Maintaining the status quo would be a waste of time.

Members agreed unanimously to support the third option presented by the MDB.

The Chairperson noted that the implementation would have to be mindful of the national agenda. Effective consultation was needed. He urged the various stakeholders to take the time frames seriously. The local elections could not be delayed. There were other imperatives with the demarcation process. The Committee would continue to interact with the MDB. They would raise concerns over the lack of response from some Departments.

The meeting was adjourned.


 

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