SALGA presented its response to the NCOP’s amendments to the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill. In principle, most of the proposed amendments were acceptable. SALGA did feel strongly that the proposed six-month extension period for when a municipal manager’s five-year contract expired was far too short. It was suggested that a one-year extension period would be better. Currently the Act had it set as a two-year extension. The Institute for Local Government Management of SA also submitted comments on the proposed amendments to the Committee. The Committee did not finalise the deliberations on the NCOP’s amendments.
South African Local Government Association (SALGA) response
Mr Lance Joel (SALGA: Governance and Intergovernmental Relations) presented its response to the NCOP’s proposed amendments to the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill.
He stated that in certain clauses he did not understand why certain proposals were made. Mr Joel referred to the amendments proposed in Clause 2 and said that it spoke to Section 87 of the Municipal Structures Act whereas the clause dealt with the Demarcation Act. The same could be said about the amendments proposed for Clause 9.
Mr Joel moved on to Clause 6. SALGA was in favour of the proposed 6(1) as the amendment was of a grammatical nature. SALGA wanted clarity on the reasoning for 6(2) being amended in that the chairperson of a ward committee would now be chosen by the ward committee whereas previously the chairperson was the ward councilor. Sub-clauses 6(3),(4),(5) and (6) had minor amendments and SALGA had no problem with these. Sub-clause 6(7) addressed the allocation of resources to ward committees. The amendment gave the MEC the authority to set guidelines for the allocations. SALGA agreed to the provision in principle but felt it better to allow the Minister to set the guidelines for allocations to ward committees on a national basis.
The proposal of a new clause, which ensured alignment of the term of ward committee members with that of municipal councilors was agreed to by SALGA in principle, but the need for the Minister to publish regulations on this was not understood. Mr Joel said that the Municipal Structures Act provides for an extension period of two years after a municipal manager’s five-year contract had expired. The NCOP proposed an amendment in Clause 11, which reduced the extension period to six months. SALGA felt the six-month period was far too short and suggested a one-year extension period in order to put systems in place and re-appoint or replace the municipal manager.
Mr Joel asked what the need to mention the NCOP in Clause 17 was. He noted that Section 69 of the Constitution already set out the oversight role of the NCOP and there was no need to mention the NCOP in Clause 17. Other than that SALGA had no objection to the clause. He concluded that the rest of their comments on the amendments were not that major.
Mr Swathe (DA) referred to Clause 11 and asked what the difference between the six-month period and the one-year period was.
The Chair responded that the six-month proposal was from the NCOP and not from SALGA. He explained that SALGA felt the six-month period to be far too short.
Mr Joel reiterated that the six-month period was far too short and added that the recruitment process alone might take six months, let alone other variables that might impact upon the appointment. A one-year period was considered a better option as it would allow municipalities to apply their minds properly.
Adv Nonkonyama (ANC) referred to Clauses 9 and 19 and asked what SALGA preferred, “the MEC in consultation with the Minister” or “the MEC after consultation with the Minister”.
Mr Joel preferred the former option, “the MEC in consultation with the Minister”. He noted that it gave a sense that there was some form of agreement between the parties.
Mr Sonto (ANC) referred to the six-month and one-year time periods previously discussed. He said that the proposed amendment came from an aversion that the appointment of a municipal manager was a political one. He asked Mr Joel to comment. Mr Sonto pointed out that the council was represented at the ward by the ward councilor. He said that public participation would have been vibrant if the community themselves chose the ward committee.
Mr Joel conceded that the framework of the Municipal Structures Act operated in a political environment. The issue was about the process of appointment of the municipal manager and the fact that a six-month period was too short. He said that political factors were nevertheless not being ignored.
Mr Joel said that SALGA needed to understand what the motivation was for the proposed amendment relating to chairpersons of ward committees. He emphasised that a link between a ward committee and the council needed to be maintained.
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) referred to ward committees and said that the basis for a councilor being the chairperson was about accountability. He was not too sure about the proposed amendment of a ward councilor not being able to be the chairperson of a ward committee any longer. The proposed amendment stated that the ward committee would elect a chairperson. Mr Mshudulu felt that the ward councilor was being undermined.
Institute for Local Government Management of SA
The Chair presented the Institute for Local Government Management of SA’s comments on the proposed amendments. He stated that the first comment was more about amendments made by the National Assembly. The Institute wanted the allowances of ward committee members to be fixed as it related to out-of-pocket expenses, that is, in Clause 6.
The second comment dealt with Clause 11 and the NCOP’s proposed six-month extension period for municipal managers, which the Committee had previously discussed. The Institute however preferred the existing two-year extension period as set out in the Municipal Structures Act.
The final comment was on Clause 22 about declarations of interest. The Institute preferred the declaration of interest to be made to the mayor or executive mayor rather than to the chairperson of the municipal council as was proposed in the amendments.
Mr W Doman (DA) said that allowances of ward committee members could not be fixed as far as out-of-pocket were concerned. The issue of possible abuse of such expenses could however also not be ignored. He was in favour of the six-month extension period for municipal managers. The one-year period could place a burden on the new council by having the existing municipal manager in an acting capacity for another year. It could become disruptive.
Mr Myron Peters (Chief Director: Institutional and Administrative Systems, DPLG) said that DPLG was involved in a massive effort to try and fill municipal manager posts. He noted that the President had set a deadline for July 2008 for the filling of such posts. Some provinces had alerted the DPLG that municipal managers had extended their contracts for two years after the five-year expiration. Many of these extensions were however to expire in July, August and September 2008. Mr Peters noted that a one-year extension did not affect the vacancy rate that much but that a six-month extension would affect the vacancy rate greatly.
Mr Mshudulu stated that before the Municipal Systems Act there had been no system for local government. He felt that the Municipal Systems Act should not be compromised and that other pieces of legislation that impact upon it should rather be amended.
Ms Suraya Williams (State Law Adviser) said that all legislation had equal status with the exception of the Constitution. The Constitution was supreme and all other pieces of legislation had to comply with it.
Mr Peters said that Ms Williams was correct as far as constitutionality issues were concerned but added that there were pieces of legislation that took precedence over others.
The Chair said repetition of what was already covered by other pieces of legislation should be avoided. Cross-referencing should also be minimised.
Mr Peters responded that some of the proposed amendments were about realignment.
The Chair concluded that the Bill would be finalised at the Committee’s next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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