A delegation from the Eastern Cape Department of Housing, Local Government and Traditional Affairs briefed the committee on the progress of interventions at Ngquza-Hill, Mnquma and King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipalities. The committee was generally satisfied with the progress made, but stressed the need to keep the committee updated, as well co-ordinating activities with all relevant governmental role players. The need for infrastructure upgrading, specifically in the former Transkei, was stressed.
Ngquza–Hill, King Sabata Dalindyebo and Mnquma Municipalities: Progress on interventions
The Chairperson noted that the delegation from the Eastern Cape was not led by the MEC for Local Government and Housing, but by the Superintendent General, as the MEC could not be present. He stated that due to unforeseen circumstances the previous day’s meeting with the Kwazulu Natal delegation did not occur and stressed the urgency for a rescheduled meeting, as the province was dealing with a large amount of interventions. The Chairperson requested that the delegation update him on Elundini, and asked that in future the political leadership be included in these meetings.
Mr Sindisile Maclean, Superintendent General, Eastern Cape Department of Local Government, formally apologised for the MEC’s absence due to the Rural Housing Summit. He stated that the intervention in Ngquza –Hill took place in 2003 and judging from the processes that followed since then, he was satisfied that matters were progressing smoothly. There was political stability, the municipality was operating normally and all section 57 Managers had been appointed. All Standing Committees were functional, policies had been developed and the Council was meeting regularly. He recommended that the Department should still render some support despite the fact that the Municipality’s operations had improved.
The intervention in Mnquma took place in 1998, where, before realignment and demarcation, violence had occurred in the region. The challenges and subsequent support initiatives were outlined. A technical steering committee had been appointed to coordinate support. The support initiatives were fully outlined. He added that financial management support in the area had been rendered by First National Bank, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Presidential Task Team, National Treasury and Provincial Treasury. Mr Maclean stated that the problem of political instability had subsided and that R1.7 million would be allocated for effective financial functioning.
At King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality there was a range of challenges emanating from political tensions and administrative blurring of functions. These included allegations of interference by politicians into the administration, the need to establish a better work ethic and staff structure, irregular appointments that were now being challenges, a dilapidated infrastructure with lack of funding, financial management problems, lack of capacity, lack of alignment of the Integrated Development Plans to the budget and no inclusion of some sector plans. The Department believed that an intervention in terms of Section 139 should be launched. Some support had already been instituted. The Department would send a copy of the directive to the Committee. The final report of the investigating team would still be presented to the Council.
Mr Maclean added that despite not being briefed to provide an overview of Elundini, he should have included it in the report. He stated that an intervention occurred in 2005 and that everything was proceeding optimally, with stability due to the co-ordination of political structure. He added that Elundini was the test case.
Ms Miki Mama, Senior Manager: Municipal Administration and Capacity Building, Eastern Cape Department of Local Government, stated that Elundini Local Municipality had appointed Mr K Gashi as Municipal Manager and that he had stabilised the municipality and appointed four Section 57 managers.
The Chairperson stated that this indicated a significant amount of progress.
Mr Z Ntuli (ANC - Kwazulu-Natal) asked about the pending court cases concerning managers in Ngquza–Hill. He asked whether Mr Soto was still holding position. He highlighted the conflict between two political factions over the appointment of the Municipal Manager at King Sabata Dalindyebo and asked whether that issue was resolved. He added that usually after elections these problems dissipated but that it appeared that this had not occurred, since the intervention was still in place. He questioned whether the elections had no impact.
Mr Maclean stated that departments with the potential to be challenged in court needed to have their own legal units, as normally a legal unit was dispatched from the office of the Premier. He explained that the issue of the Municipal Manager at King Sabata Dalindyebo was that a junior person had been appointed by the council and it was alleged that he was merely a puppet. It was subsequently agreed that he step aside. Mr Maclean stated that at this Municipality the issues between administration and the council persisted, as only the office of the mayor had changed, but that the Department was currently generating a response that would be forwarded to the Committee.
Ms Mama added that two managers at Ngquza-Hill had been involved in financial mismanagement and that they had been suspended and did not have their contracts renewed.
The Chairperson interjected that interventions also dealt with the administrative side, and that if this was the case then the intervention must continue, as opposed to politically concerned interventions.
Mr N Mack (ANC – Western Cape) stated that most reports neglected to include information on district level municipalities. He asked whether the Intergovernmental Relations Forum (IGRF) structures were functional. Mr Mack also asked how they could identify interventions before problems arose in order to mitigate possible issues.
Mr Maclean replied that in terms of the IGRF there was a district forum where municipal and district municipalities could come together, He added that they had forums with the MEC and mayors, but that the IGRF was not necessarily up to expectations.
Ms Mama added that District municipalities were always consulted about matters occurring in their areas, in conjunction with South African Local Government Association (SALGA).
The Chairperson was generally impressed that the interventions were yielding results. However he stressed the need for a forensic audit at Mnquma. The areas of the former Transkei that were falling into dilapidation due to a lack of infrastructure were cited, as well as the need to include national departments in order to co-ordinate change. In Mnquma he stated that people had stopped using flush toilets due to unreliable water provision, and that this was a problem that required national department assistance. The Chairperson added that inability to provide effective revenue collection at King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality was an ongoing problem that required intervention. He stated that the OR Tambo District was the poorest, but that it had the greatest development potential and as such should become a provincial focus for growth and development. By laws needed to be implemented to deal with the issue of taxis and here too intervention mechanisms needed to be developed.
Mr Maclean stated that the proposal to look at development in the Eastern Cape would be taken back to the Premier, and stated that a conference was scheduled to take place during the first quarter concerning economic development in the OR Tambo District. He replied that in order to conduct a forensic audit the MEC needed some reason to do so, and if there was no suspicion then no audit could be implemented. He agreed that revenue collection needed to be co-ordinated with National Treasury; and added that they were providing assistance. The taxi problem was one of planning, as there was no proper CBD, which led to congestion on main roads. However, proper demarcated ranks needed to be and would be implemented, in terms of the Small Town Renewal Project.
The Chairperson asked whether it was too early to evaluate the competency of the Municipal Manager at King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality.
Ms Mama responded that it was indeed too early to evaluate the competence of the Municipal Manager. However measures had been taken by the Department of Provincial and Local Government to heal the political division. On the issue of sanitation, OR Tambo Municipality had agreed that they had a problem and had invited the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and other service providers to meet in order to renegotiate and determine the best service provider.
Mr Ntuli asked about the accessibility of Municipal Infrastructure Grants (MIG) by municipalities.
Mr Maclean replied that a unit existed to assist at municipalities, as well as a forum composed of their department and the DWAF.
The Chairperson stated that the meeting had covered sufficient ground, that the Committee was satisfied with the report and would make recommendations. He requested that the Committee be kept updated on progress, and that they would follow up the matters. He stressed the need for co-ordination on all issues with the relevant governmental departments and highlighted the untapped potential of the Eastern Cape.
The meeting was adjourned.
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