State of municipal governance and operations on moving to Alert level 3; with Minister and Deputy Ministers

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

29 May 2020

Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)


Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs 29May 2020
Audio: State of municipal governance and operations on moving to Alert level 3; Municipalities under section 139 of the Constitution

The Committee took issue with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) for announcing the Covid-19 Level Three regulations without first consulting it, as it was not placing the Committee in the best position to exercise its mandate. It felt strongly that along with business, labour and any other key stakeholders, Parliament deserved to be at the forefront of the Department’s consultation processes. The Committee could not continue to come in at the end of the process, just like the ordinary public, and at the same time be expected to provide informed leadership to communities. Going forward, it urged the Department to get Parliament and the Committee timeously onboard as it embarked on consultations in preparation for the remaining stages of the national lockdown.

The Minister said that as the Department moved from level four to level three, there was a risk adjusted strategy to deal with the lockdown because the President and Cabinet had taken a view that it should not abruptly move from a lockdown to normal, but should go step by step. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the lockdown should not be eased until numbers decreased, but the reason it had to ease the lockdown was to have a balance between trying to save lives, lower the curve and ensure livelihoods.

Members questioned various aspects of the easing of restrictions, with tobacco and alcohol top of their concerns. A Member asserted that the tobacco ban was based on misleading figures on the number of objections received. Another argued that allowing liquor sales would lead to drunken behaviour, and increased accidents and injuries, which would impact on needed hospital facilities. The opening of factories would place workers’ lives at risk, and it would be blacks who would bear the brunt of the accelerated relaxation.

There was also concern that the requirement for municipalities to report on their procurements only at the first council meeting after the lockdown would spark fraud and corruption, as it could last for a long time. Other issues raised were the suggested payment holiday for indigent ratepayers, compliance with eviction regulations, the need for clarity on attendance at religious ceremonies, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) not issuing food parcels because of the R350 Covid-19 grant, delays in municipalities completing budgets and integrated development plans timeously, and the impact of excessive electricity tariffs at a time when ratepayers’ finances were under pressure.   

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks

The Chairperson said she wanted to convey gratitude and appreciation to the Minister and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) The Committee supported the tireless work on the Disaster Management Act regulations, including the Covid-19 responses. The Committee was happy that the Department had guided the country through the 5, 4 and 3 Alert Levels of lockdown.

It also wanted to appreciate the opportunity afforded for public comment during the drafting of the regulations in preparations for the fourth stage of the lockdown. Regrettably, there was no such opportunity for the Committee to have inputs for the regulations that would be implemented on 1 June. It was a matter that concerned all Members, as it was not placing the Committee in the best position to exercise its mandate. Their constituencies expected them to have special insight and provide guidance on regulations. This was justified, as Members were custodians of the National Disaster Management Act and the lead committee of the National Assembly for overseeing the implementation of this legislation and associated regulations.

In many instances, it was failing to meet these expectations as it was not privy to the initial consultations. As a Committee, it was therefore felt strongly that along with business, labour and any other key stakeholders, Parliament deserved to be at the forefront of the Department’s consultation processes. The Committee could not continue to come in at the end of the process, just like the ordinary public, and at the same time be expected to provide informed leadership to communities. Going forward, it urged the Department to get Parliament and the Committee timeously onboard as it embarked on consultations in preparation for all the remaining stages of the National Lockdown. This would reaffirm the Committee’s rightful place as well-informed public representatives, as well as leaders for constituencies.

The agenda had another item today, which involved the municipalities under section 139 of the Constitution. It was known very well there were serious challenges with the implementation of section 139. The perusal of the Department presentation before the Committee had confirmed this. In many instances, the interventions had no effect whatsoever in terms of improved outcomes, unauthorised irregular expenditure, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and achievement on predetermined objectives. Yet money continued to be poured out on consultants and administrators. These were the key issues that would be addressed today.

The presentations were received timeously, but based on the letter received from the Speaker last night, the Department had added information in line with the Speaker’s request. The matter could now be processed, and the Speaker could receive a response. She would hand over to the Minister, and the item on regulations would be dealt with first.

Mr H Hoosen (DA) asked if he could make a comment before the handover to the Minister.

The Chairperson said he was allowed

Committee consultation on Covic-19 regulations

Mr Hoosen said he wanted to add to the initial comments made by the Chairperson on consultation and discussion with the Committee prior to the Level 3 Regulations. He supported the point made, but also wanted to add that the conversation on Level 3 regulations planned was a wasted exercise, as there was nothing in the in presentation that was not in the media or seen before.

He felt the Minister regrettably showed a deep disregard for the Committee. The Committee across all political parties asked to at least to have an opportunity to engage her on the views of the Committee, who were the representatives of people on the ground. There was nowhere else in South Africa where there were legally elected representatives of the people on the ground, and why the Minister would not consult with the Committee was unbelievable. It was all good and well to engage with labour, business, religious organizations -- and more of it was encouraged -- but he wanted to know from the Minister why she chose not to at least get the views of the Committee. The Minister did not have to present to the Committee if she was concerned about information getting into the public domain, but at least had to show the courtesy to ask the Committee’s opinion on what should be opened and what should be closed.

He thought it was deeply disrespectful, and the reason why he took this position was because this was not the only incident. Written questions put to the Minister received a standard response that the information requested was not available. He had raised the matter previously when the House met. He had taken the Minister at her word when she was initially appointed and had explained that there was a difficulty, but she had promised she would deal with questions. To this day, the Minister had not dealt with written questions.

The most recent written questions put to the Minister had also received the standard response of unavailable information. She had had a record of doing this in her previous portfolio as well. He was appealing to the Chairperson to tell the Minister, if she did not respect the fact that the Committee had a job to do and was not willing to show respect to the Committee, then the Minister had to expect the same in return.

He had made sure the Minister received the greatest amount of respect when she came to the Committee and he thought all Members acted in a manner where political parties were not put first and the greatest regard and respect was shown, but the Committee also needed respect. He awaited the Minister’s response to his comments.

Minister’s response

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of COGTA, in response to Mr Hoosen, said the consultations had been led by the President, and she apologized for not coming to the Committee. Next time, before there was a move to Level 2, she would ask for the Committee’s views because what was written was not a personal view but that of the National Corona-virus Command Council (NCCC). In future she would consult the Committee before the NCCC made its decisions.

She respected the Committee, and did not deliberately not answer questions. The questions asked were not only within the Department’s own scope, but other spheres. She wanted to make it clear that she did not have the information about other spheres at hand, which required the information to be sourced. If a question depended on another sphere of government, it would have to be sourced. Sometimes she got asked questions about specific municipalities where she could not give a response until information was sourced, as well as considering how long it took her to get a response, before she could respond to the Committee.

It was not out of disrespect for the Committee, and she wanted to clarify this. When she was asked questions that could be answered she did, and she wanted to put this on record.

Mr Hoosen said he did not intend to interrupt the Minister, and he apologised for that. He said the information given by the Minister was incorrect because two weeks ago, he had filed a question with a very straightforward question asking how many court cases the Minister was involved in during the lockdown, as the Minister was cited as a respondent. This question did not relate to other portfolios or departments, but to the Minister herself. He had received the standard answer that the information was unavailable. Surely the information was available because the Minister must have been briefed by attorneys, especially considering she was at the forefront of the lockdown? He found it hard to believe that the information was unavailable.

The Minister explained that if there was a court case, it did not come to her directly but went to the state law advisors. Sometimes she asked her Department about court cases she had heard about and asked for the papers, but the Department did not have them on hand as not all the court cases had COGTA as the lead department. A lot of court cases had different lead departments, so the state law advisors tended to inform lead departments first. For instance, she came to know of the recent case about education where she was cited, from somewhere else. She had had to go and check, and was then told the state attorneys had informed the Education Department, and had started with it.

When it was a case that she was the main respondent, the state attorneys started with her. She had to check, as she did not want to give the Committee the wrong information and have it said that she was misleading Parliament. She had to source the information. For instance, there were cases dealing with mining where she had not filed an affidavit. She supported whatever the lead department did. Not every case was dealt with by her. and she had to explain this.

It was not out of disrespect, but rather that she did not want to give inaccurate information that could mislead Parliament. She had to check that when she did give the information. It was correct. She could give a list of the cases she personally dealt with immediately, but could not give every case without accurately sourcing the information.

She was sorry but maybe the expectation that all cases came directly to her was not quite correct. Cases went to the Department of Justice (DoJ), who farmed it out to different departments and not straight to the Ministers. She did not disrespect the Committee and would give it the information she had.

The Chairperson thanked Dr Dlamini-Zuma, and asked that the presentation be introduced.

Lockdown easing strategy

The Minister said that as the Department moved from level to level, there was a risk adjusted strategy to deal with the lockdown because the President and Cabinet had taken a view that it should not abruptly move from a lockdown to normal, but should go step by step.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the lockdown should not be eased until numbers decreased, but the reason it had to ease the lockdown was to have a balance between trying to save lives, lower the curve and ensure livelihoods.

On the opening up of the economy, she would not waste time as the Member had stated that the Committee had all the information already.

As far as government was concerned, all the departments should be going back to work, except for employees over 60 and those with co-morbidities, as they were vulnerable and if they could work from home they still had to. All government spheres and entities should be working at Level 3, and government services would be made available.

Some of the services were supposed to be available earlier at the local government level, like the revenue generating services, but because of dependencies with other departments they could not. For example, transport and the issuing of licenses was going to open only on 1 June even though revenue collection at Level 4 was allowed due to dependencies. She would leave it there, and come back to answer questions.

COGTA: Directions for municipal governance and operations

Ms Avril Williamson, Director General (DG): COGTA, said two presentations had been prepared. The first would deal with municipal governance and operations for the move to Level 3, and would also indicate how the Department had been guiding municipalities as they traversed through the lockdown. It would also provide information on how municipalities had held meetings.

The second presentation would indicate municipalities under section 139 of the Constitution. This presentation would explain the root causes for some of the interventions taken by the Department.

Dr Kevin Naidoo, Executive Manager: Municipal Governance, COGTA, said the presentation would give a brief background into how the Department had arrived at the directions it developed. The directions would speak to matters relating to meetings, integrated development plans (IDPs), the provision of essential municipal services, revenue generation, procurement during the period of the state of disaster, compliance with directions, and information about moving to Alert Level 3, but also focusing on the correspondence received from Parliament yesterday.

A brief timeline of the Covid-19 pandemic and the directives and regulations that were passed was outlined.


The directions on municipal operations and governance of 25 March were outlined. There had been three iterations of the directions published on 25 and 30 March, which indicated that for meetings where 100 people were required to be present, alternative arrangements had to be made. Including this provision had introduced a risk of physical contact between members at those meetings, so the Department had issued revised directions on 7 may outlawing all contact meetings.

The directions on municipal operations and governance of the 7 May were outlined. They stated categorically that all meetings (council, tribunal and entities) had to be held using teleconferencing and videoconferencing media.

Municipalities had to consider all businesses (IDPs, critical municipal services – roads/storm water, electricity, municipal: health/environmental services, waste management); comments had to be invited on the IDP and budget (no contact meetings); development tribunal meetings had to take place, and revenue sections must operate (licences, trading services, clearance certificates, meter reading). They had to note that the Electronic National Administration Traffic Information System (e-Natis) would go on-line from 1 June, and undertake emergency procurement (Treasury Instruction No. 5/2020 and circular issued). Importantly, municipalities were directed to report all procurement undertaken during the national state of disaster at the first council meeting after the disaster.

Adoptions of IDPs

Municipalities were directed to continue consulting communities on draft IDPs processes, and could do so using the various platforms outlined such as radio media, social media and distribution of pamphlets, notices on buildings, bulk sms, loud hailing and uploading of documents on municipality websites.

In response, community members and other stakeholders could provide comments through mechanisms such as feedback via social media platforms, written comments to municipal offices and other avenues available.

The declaration of the national state of disaster and implementation of the lockdown had had an impact on the processes towards the adoption of IDPs. Municipalities were at different stages in the process of finalising the 2020/21 IDPs.

Three scenarios prevailed: 

  • Scenario 1: Municipalities that did not adopt the draft IDPs before the lockdown.
  • Scenario 2: Municipalities that have adopted the draft IDPs before lockdown, but had not consulted with communities.
  • Scenario 3: Municipalities that had adopted the draft IDPs and consulted with communities.

With the Directions permitting municipalities to convene virtual meetings and consult with communities, municipalities were expected to finalise and adopt IDPs before 30 Juneas prescribed.

Implications for municipal budgets

Dr Naidoo said the implications for municipal budgets had been included as it was specific request in the letter that came from the Committee.

On 30 March, National Treasury (NT) had issued an exemption notice (in terms of Section 177(1)(b) of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA)). An extract of the notice was copied on the slide which in essence indicated municipalities and entities were exempted from any timeline provisions in the MFMA until such time that the state of disaster was lifted. To complement this, the NT had subsequently issued an annexure to MFMA Circular 99 on 8 April.

Dr Naidoo said checking in with the NT, the Department was advised that notwithstanding Covid-19 and the exemption notice issued, as many as 99% of municipalities had already tabled budgets for 2020/21.

Operation of revenue generating services

Municipalities were encouraged to continue with revenue collection, but within the confines of all COVID-19 prescripts. It was noted that the impact of the pandemic and lockdown would put the finances of many businesses and households at risk, and reduce their ability to pay municipal bills.

Some municipalities had offered payment holidays, or reduced efforts to collect monies owed. It was stressed that these practices were not endorsed by the national government, as it would be more difficult to collect revenue that had been postponed.

Municipalities were expected to do their best to collect revenue, while allowing for relief for the indigent and those with temporary payment problems, in line with their existing credit control and indigent policies / frameworks.

Emergency procurement

The NT had replaced the initial measures relating to COVID-19 procurement (Instruction Note No. 3 of 2020/21 and Circular 101) with Instruction Note No. 5 of 2020/21 for Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) institutions, and Circular 102 for MFMA institutions.

The replacement followed concerns being raised about the procurement process/approach, as it excluded some domestic suppliers and covered too wide an array of goods, especially locally manufactured goods.

The Instruction Note and Circular:

  • Provides measures to open the supply of products to all suppliers conforming to the specifications, and being registered on the Central Supplier Database (CSD).
  • Outlines specifications for the required personal protective equipment (PPE) items, according to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTI&C), the Department of Health (DoH), and World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements.
  • Outlines maximum prices at which the government will procure PPE items; and
  • Outlines the emergency procurement, monitoring and reporting requirements.

As a matter of emphasis, the directions directed all municipalities to report all procurement undertaken during the period of the national state of disaster to the first council meeting after the lapsing or the termination of the state of disaster.


The directions were distributed to all municipalities via the provinces on 7 May. Subsequently, the Department requested all municipalities via provinces to report any non-compliance with the directions.

In response, they had indicated that the directions were issued under cover of a circular requesting municipalities to comply therewith.

No reports had been received indicating non-compliance with the directions by municipalities.

For municipalities that were experiencing challenges with the holding of virtual meetings, such challenges were directed to the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA). There were some limitations of the Microsoft (MS) teams, as they could take only 250 connections. SITA had indicated it preferred the Webex platform that had also been security vetted by most other countries. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) on 11 May had also issued generic rules for virtual meetings and also guided municipalities to SITA for support.

On municipalities complying with social distancing and sanitization, municipalities had not reported challenges, and the Department hoped alert Level 4 was used to adequately prepare and be ready for alert Level 3.

A detailed report in this regard would be available in due course.

Moving to Alert Level 3

The Minister had briefed the media in this regard on 28 May. The entire country would be moving to Alert Level 3 with effect from 1 June. It had also identified the 12 districts that were hotspots -- was seven metros and five districts.

Prohibition on evictions

The Correspondence from the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) stated that Alert Level 5 provided adequate protection against evictions, but Alert Level 4 diluted this protection and made it possible for evictions to occur.

The Department noted that due to hardship being experienced, people had been unable to pay rent for homes/property. While those with mortgages had been given some relief by the banks, together with a reduction in interest rates, rental payers did not have similar relief.

On 16 April, the Regulations had prohibited the eviction of a person from their home. Legal concerns had subsequently been raised about the wording of this provision, relating to regulations usurping the powers of the court regarding the granting of an order for eviction. Legal opinion had been obtained which stated that movement of persons may be regulated during the period of the State of Disaster, but could not take away the powers of courts (separation of powers). Courts had to consider the various factors relating to specific evictions during the lockdown. 

In making these regulations, the government:

  • was guided by the need to protect people who may have lost their jobs during the lockdown;
  • must bear in mind there were many ordinary people (especially the elderly) dependent on rental income for their livelihoods, having improved their properties so that they could earn income;
  • in responding to the above, must balance the interests of all people when finalising the regulations;
  • acknowledged the role of the courts.

Slide 20 presented the various iterations of the regulations on evictions. The first iteration indicated that no person may be evicted, the second iteration provided that the courts must be involved in the eviction process, and the last iteration was a marriage of both iterations, where the regulations were merged.


Ms G Opperman (DA) referred to sound finance management and compliance, and said scientifically it had been stated that the disaster would be around for the next 14-24 months. Two years was a very long time to wait for a procurement report. How would the Department ensure emergency procurement measures were not abused during this period, as well as ensure supply chain management (SCM) during Covid-19 was related to the councils? Linked to that question, she asked if officials with a record of financial misconduct would be on blacklist database.

In the light of the relaxed MFMA, specifically section 177.1b, which exempted councils from MFMA timeline provisions and also provided that councils may only submit their expenditure at the end of the 2019/20 financial year, would this not result in a regression of audit outcomes?

On revenue collection, she said in the report of 24 May it was stated that the reason why there was such a large burden on communities was because municipalities added 80% to Eskom’s price of electricity, and more than 40% of people buying electricity bought directly from municipalities, which was why they struggled to pay for municipal services. How could electricity overpricing be addressed, or could a report be created on municipalities with high electricity tariffs, considering that public participation on municipal budgets tariffs would start soon?

In the Northern Cape, the Phokwane municipality had been under administration since April 2019, yet it had regressed again with no improvements, no prosecutions and no consequences. This municipality had been dissolved two weeks ago, and she knew there would be civil litigation.

The Chairperson interjected and told Ms Opperman the Committee was dealing with preparedness for the lockdown, not the section 139 municipal matters.

Ms Opperman referred to the fiscal response to municipalities, focusing on her constituency, the Hantam municipality, to which the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) had also made reference, and said she wanted to know how the Department implemented the Disaster Management Act (DMA) regulations and directives regarding health and safety precautionary measures. SALGA had told the Committee it cost the Hantam municipality R1 180 per employee, but it had received only R21 000, and the real cost was a R175 000. How would the shortfall be made up? Where would the municipality get the rest of the money to ensure it had adhered to the DMA’s health and safety precautions?

Mr Hoosen said he wanted to pick up on Ms Opperman’s point on the period of the lockdown and procurement matters. It made sense, and the provision in the regulations that called for municipalities to report emergency procurement at the first meeting of the council after the lockdown was a good provision. However, he thought there could be unintended consequences, as nobody at that stage knew how long the lockdown would last, and it could well be another year before Level 1. The problem was that from now until then, there could be a number of questionable procurement contracts that municipalities would have undertaken. He was worried that the Department had not put provisions in place, and it was perhaps an area that the Minister might consider amending at the next opportunity.

He felt it was better, if practical, for municipalities to report emergency procurement information either on their websites or to the council in writing at least monthly to ensure transparency and less excessive expenditure. For example, the Chris Hani municipality had spent up to R175 for a 500ml hand sanitiser -- and this was just one example. He had no doubt, especially when looking at the next report on section 139 interventions, it would be picked up that a number of challenges affecting the status of those municipalities were due to poor governance, financial management, and high levels of corruption.

It was known that these were contributing factors to sliding municipalities. The opportunity was now there, more than ever, for municipalities that did not have much in the way of oversight mechanisms to spend money as they pleased during the lockdown. He wanted the Department and Minister to give some consideration to the matter, to ensure the loophole was closed now before it got picked up only a year later. It would cost more money if the loophole was not closed now.

From the President’s initial announcement on the lock down regulations, the impression he got and the mood in country was that all of SA was behind the President. There was a sense of unity and pride in which the President had addressed citizens, but as time had gone on and as Minister’s had produced the regulations they did, that initial goodwill had been slowly eroded. Today, more South Africans were becoming cynical about some of the regulations.

The decision to open up the churches with 50 people was a good one, with proper protocols in place, but then it did not make sense why ten people in a salon was not allowed, or if a single parent needed a permit to move a child, but one could buy alcohol without a permit. These examples indicated the illogical and irrational nature of some regulations. The 6pm curfew for exercise was welcomed, but it did not make sense why it was specifically 6pm. Many of the regulations to him and the citizens did not make sense, especially since Ministers were not giving explanations. What was the reason for the 6pm curfew, as it appeared arbitrary?

On the court papers in response to the tobacco companies’ challenge, he said the Minister had initially informed the public that 2 000 people had objected to the suggestion by the President to reopen the sale of cigarettes. Considering the recent detailed court papers submitted, it seemed the Minister may have misled SA. The information was not new – it was in the court papers in the Minister’s name, and was not sub judice as it was in the public domain. From the 2 000, people it turned out only small percentage of people objected to the sale of tobacco -- only 23% of the people supported the ban.

From the information, it appeared that the Minister had misled the people, but he was giving the Minister the benefit of the doubt. It did not appear that when the Minister mentioned 2 000 people there was any truth to it, as it appeared there was only 454 people who had objected to uplifting the ban. He hoped the Minister would address the matter, otherwise he would be left to believe the Minister had mislead the country.

Mr I Groenewald (FF+) said he would not repeat all the questions Mr Hoosen had asked, as they had included a lot of his questions as well.

On no contact meetings, he wanted to know if there would be recourse from the Department if municipalities did not comply.

Most municipalities’ websites were not working or were far behind, with their latest posts being outdated by years. How was the Department going to correct this?

On Circular 30 that had been issued, and the MFMA provisions and timelines being adjusted, he asked when the next budget would be approved, as it was usually by 1 July, and this could lead to a council being dissolved, as there was a requirement for it to be approved by then.

Regarding revenue generation, he asked if the Department could seek to exempt municipalities from Value Added Tax (VAT), as this would not lessen the income of the municipalities but would assist users to pay accounts. He asked the Department to consider the suggestion.

Referring to struggling municipalities, he said one municipality had said its councillors could not use the internet and did not know how to, but in terms of the Remuneration of Office Bearer’s Act, each councillor received a stipend for internet use of R300. Why did these councilors still get the stipend if they could not use the internet, and how would this be mitigated?

A generic rule had gone out to all municipalities from SALGA, and he requested that the Committee receive it as well.

Would day care centres be open in Level 3 as more people went back to work? How should parents act if both were workers who needed to go back to work?

On the opening of churches, was the 50 people limit for religious services, for 50 people per building on a premise, or a total of 50 people maximum?

Mr K Ceza (EFF) said regulation 19 of the Covid-19 regulations for Level 4 stated there had to be a full moratorium on evictions, and he thought the Committee was overwhelmed with complaints from farm communities who were abused by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) secretaries who colluded with the police and sheriff to rent out white farms and benefit from the rental money, instead of the community. When the community had started to raise its hands, the councillors had brought the sheriffs to evict the community without a court order, even during the lockdown. Why had the regulations allowed for the evictions? Clarity had to be provided on what should happen concerning eviction orders and if they should be allowed to be issued by the court during this period.

The issue on municipalities disregarding regulations had been covered by Mr Groenewald. There had been an issue in the Western Cape, where a Mr Pretorius in George had allowed councillor Iona Kritzinger, who was under quarantine, to travel from home to a voting station, posing a risk to other public officials.

Regarding revenue generation services, a sentence had mentioned businesses being exempted during this period. He said businesses were maybe planning massive retrenchments, therefore they should not be exempted as there was no positive demonstration of what they had done to further the development of workers.

He asked what was hindering the continuance of the processes of IDP adoption for scenario one, as statements that municipalities had not adopted their IDPs before the lockdown sounded like an excuse.

Reducing revenue collection efforts would be irresponsible, as no clear recovery strategy had been provided on how to collect after the payment holidays. What would the recovery strategies be?

Mr B Hadebe (ANC) referred to the requirement about procurement undertakings being reported at the first council after the disaster, and said he did not think the intention of the regulations and state of disaster was to release municipal councils from their oversight role and responsibilities. Considering the state of SA municipalities, particularly when it came to wasteful and unauthorised expenditure, it would be suicidal to say municipalities must report procurement towards the end of the national disaster. It had to be included in the regulations that at the first meeting after a transaction occurred, municipalities had to report on those procurement processes, if they could not meet monthly. Municipalities were encouraged to hold virtual meetings, therefore it was appropriate under the state of disaster and it was in line with SCM processes that all expenditure was reported at the next sitting of council, otherwise municipalities would be tempted to fall into the trap of unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

He asked for clarification on how many municipal councils had managed to pass their IDPs.

He requested accurate and correct figures for how many municipal councils were struggling to hold virtual meetings, as not having this information limited the Committee’s oversight. COGTA was responsible for issuing these directives and regulations, and had to be in a position to get an accurate figure. What were the mitigating factors in place to remedy such challenges so that the Committee could intervene accordingly with its oversight, and monitor whether the 10% of municipal councils that had not passed their budgets had timelines in place for passing them by 30 June? The Committee could not wait until that date to see if municipalities were processing their budgets. COGTA had to have measures in place and monitoring tools to get accurate and detailed information. From 1 June, the Committee would be doing oversight full time, so detailed information was required.

Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF) asked the Minister to indicate why the state was rushing to open the lockdown levels. Even before yesterday, when she announced Level 3, she had alluded to the fact that the curve had not flattened. The Minister would know as an activist that people who would die of Covid-19 would be black people. Even the slide about moving to Alert Level 3 emphasised only the easing of some restrictions, including those on work. During Level 5, there had been many cases reported of companies who forced workers to work while at the same time the country was facing increases in virus cases. The government was opening the economy, knowing that black people would affected because they would be going to work. What was the real reason for rushing to kill black people?

On municipalities complying with directives, she did not think it was enough for COGTA to say it had requested all municipalities to report any non-compliance with directives via their provinces. When the Chairperson opened the meeting, she had said the Members were doing work with constituencies, which meant that Members were informed about issues happening on the ground and had to discuss those issues at the meeting. To rely solely on the reports from the provinces without verification as the lead department did not give Members enough information to carry out oversight.

She said the Social African Social Security Agency (SASSA) was not issuing food parcels because of the R350 Covid-19 grant. Unemployed persons without food could not access SASSA food parcels because it was said to be “double dipping”. Social Development did not have anything in place to assist those kinds of people. There was a crisis, as people without jobs and money had nothing to eat. What was the municipalities’ intervention plan for this matter? There was a disaster management function in municipalities, but it was not doing enough to assist people in a state of disaster. They had always said they could not assist as they did not have a budget.

She asked if municipalities were complying with directives. The economy was opening up, but the Department could not even tell the Committee if all municipalities were disinfecting all places in order to curb the virus.

Regarding operating revenue, the Department had mentioned that it did not support municipalities giving holiday payments. What were the municipalities doing to assist people who had lost their jobs and could no longer afford to pay, as well as ensuring those persons were not penalised? There was no communication from municipalities, and there was no number for people to call if they lost their jobs so that the municipality had a record. Since there was no clear plan from the municipalities, people would end up with huge bills.

On private property evictions, she thought it was not enough to say there were no evictions according to the regulations, because it was not about municipalities evicting people but private owners who were evicting people. How far did the municipal capacity go to ensure private owners were not carrying out evictions? For instance, many people in one flat in eThekwini had been evicted by a person who was not even here in South Africa. She knew that if it was a private property, it became very difficult to protect people, but the regulation had to be enforced by municipalities. These were the type of issues that clarity needed to be provided on.

Her colleagues had covered her on the matter of exemptions, and even the NT had issued an exemption notice, but the aim of exemptions was to divert funds and address issues that had to be addressed. The Committee had to be told where funds went after they were diverted, and which projects had been implemented. It was not just a leeway for municipalities to divert money and do whatever they wanted, but had to be accompanied with visible projects that addressed community needs. There were still many challenges, such as in Clermont ward 22, where bucket toilet systems had to be addressed.

She would like to get a clear answer on professional measures to mitigate employee health and safety risk from the Minister, because she was the head of COGTA. She was aware that some of the issues that had previously been asked did not belong in the Minister’s portfolio, but this matter did. There was a crisis at Addington hospital under the eThekwini municipality which was earmarked for Covid-19, but was in a bad state. Amongst other things, only one out of seven lifts at the hospital was working. She asked if COGTA had the jurisdiction to go and check on government institutions like this, because the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal had said the hospital had to deal with Covid-19, yet it was in a bad state -- people could not be referred to such a hospital.

Ms P Xaba-Ntshaba (ANC) commented on the NCCC’s decision to allow the sale of alcohol, and asked if it did not consider alcohol more dangerous than cigarettes, because drunk people were difficult to control. The availability of alcohol would lead to an increased influx at hospitals and place nurses’ lives in danger. As the Minister of Police had said, there had been no overflow of drunk people at hospitals since the ban on alcohol sales. She agreed with Ms Mkhaliphi, as she thought the opening of alcohol outlets, especially in locations with many black people, would lead to the killing of blacks. She was not saying it was true, but she was asking why the Department was putting black people at risk to die. On the alcohol regulations, she said it stated that shebeens, taverns and restaurants would remain closed but there would be a danger as alcohol would be bought in bulk and get drunk and after this there would be no one to manage the regulations, and drunk people would not adhere to regulations. She asked the Minister to clarify the reason for allowing alcohol to be sold. Cigarettes could not change people’s mental faculties, but alcohol could.

With the opening of churches, she asked how churches would manage social distancing, and if there was a timeline in place for how long church services could be held for.

She asked when and how the provision of water and sanitation directive would be implemented. It could be stated on paper, but when it came to implementation things would stay the same, as there were many directives but no plans for implementation.

Mr B Luthuli (IFP) asked which municipalities offered payment holidays to collect money owed, although it was not endorsed by National government. This provided an opportunity for further mismanagement and corruption.

According to an Independent Online article on 16 May, an enforcement agency forming part of an anti-corruption task team had joined forces to tackle allegations of corruption in connection with the Covid-19 Relief Fund. Did the Department know of any cases of corruption being investigated in relation to emergency procurement in municipalities?

He was not comfortable with the regulations regarding churches, because they were very strict and would result in some churches not being able to open. How could the Minister assist the situation?

Ms M Tlou (ANC) welcomed the update by Minister and expressed thanks for the work well done. A number of municipalities faced challenges, such as being unable to recover payment for monthly services rendered. What was the Department doing to strengthen capacity in all municipalities?

One of the most important requirements for municipalities was to adhere to cost containment measures. What strategies had municipalities implemented to adhere to this expectation, because currently there were many problems that affected entities such as small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). How could it be ensured that residents were given a certain a percentage of rebate for electricity and water tariffs?

She was cut short due to a poor internet connection.

The Chairperson allowed Members a second chance to raise their omitted issues or questions.

Mr Hadebe said that any law or policy passed had to be enforceable, monitored and implementable. In relation to the regulations passed urging municipalities to provide shelter for homeless people, last week the City of Cape Town had closed its Strandfontein homeless centre and dumped people under a bridge. He had not heard or seen anything to date from COGTA on enforcing compliance for what was clearly a sign of defiance from the City of Cape Town. He wanted the Department to clarify what it was doing to enforce regulations where there was a clear sign of defiance by municipalities.

Ms Opperman asked if the table of essential services could be amended to include religious counselling as an essential service. If yes, when?

Ms Xaba-Ntshaba said yesterday that Minister Jackson Mthembu had said the government could not police over 55 million people, as people had to look after themselves. This statement was contradicted by the regulation to allow the sale of alcohol. How could drunk people stay safe? The opening up of alcohol sales would “finish” the youth, as many youths got drunk. The country would have no future due to the opening of alcohol as the youth would not follow regulations. The Minister had to go back and sit down and think twice of opening about alcohol it would kill children. It was better off opening the sale of cigarettes.

Mr Groenewald asked if marriages could take place in churches.

In the gazetted regulation about schools reopening, grades one and two had been omitted. Could the Department clarify?

Department’s response

Dr Naidoo said there had been emphasis in the presentation on the provision requiring that municipalities report procurement undertaken during the disaster period, but it had to be read together with Circular 99 of the MFMA. This stated that the monthly and quarterly reporting that municipalities were expected to do, according to section 71 of MFMA, still had to happen, even if remotely. There was no excuse. Circular 99 also stated that municipalities were still expected to undertake the 2018/19 audit verification and submit the information on trading services’ net and gross operating margins. While Covid-19 was in progress, reporting still had to take place.

On evictions, he said the marriage of the two provisions in the earlier sets of regulations were meant to be read together and considered by the courts or implementors on a case by case basis. For example, if a tenant paid rent of R40 000, if the tenant could not pay this amount, the landlord would intervene and evict the tenant and take them to alternative accommodation, where the rent would be R10 000. It was circumstantial, and courts had to make considerations in line with the regulations.

On the misuse of R300 by councillors for data, he said if there was a breach of code of conduct, there were sanctions.

Municipal finance

Mr Mbulelo Sigaba, Chief Director: Municipal Finance, COGTA, said Members had raised concern about reporting at the first council meeting. When the lockdown was promulgated it was expected to be two to three months long, and not extend to 12-24 months. It was under the assumption that there would be a complete lockdown and all the facilities that enabled the council to meet would not be used.

The municipal manager (MM) had been given authority to deviate from inviting competitive bids in cases of emergency, and therefore had to report after three months. However, now that the situation from 1 June would allow for normality to return, the MM was required to report on any progress on procurement related to Covid-19 expenditure. 

Together with the NT, a system had been designed for reporting on a weekly basis for Covid-19 expenditure. The Department would not wait for Disaster Management Act (DMA) provisions for reporting, as municipalities had to report each time there was a municipal council. The municipalities would determine the agenda from the accounting officer.

On electricity tariffs, he said when Eskom supplied areas in cities or towns, there were additional expenses compared to rural areas. These additional municipal expenses had to be included in the tariff structures. The Department was planning to do a cost of supply study on electricity during the current financial year to normalise the different tariff rates, and reduce them from more than eight to three.

On credit control and the fact that people would be unable to pay, he said municipalities were not exempted from using the present credit control policies to recover money. All the Department had done was to ask municipalities to look at the merits of applications.

Through the R20 billion stimulus package, the Department was targeting to finance the challenge for municipalities to cope with the increase in indigents through increasing the equitable share transferred to municipalities in order to cater for those who no longer earned an income. There would be a lot of additional funding to finance the reduction of revenue.

In response to Mr Luthuli on payment holidays, he said it was the Stellenbosch municipality in the Western Cape which had implemented the initiative. The Department did not support the initiative, as it created an impression that people were no longer required to pay for services. Those who could afford had to pay.

On collection points, he said from 1 June municipal offices would be open to start collecting revenue. Normally municipalities had agreements with agents like retail shops for additional collection, therefore lockdown did not mean people could not pay for services, except in some rural towns where there were no facilities.

Regarding the suggested exemption of VAT on municipal services, he said it was not the Department’s mandate, but the Department of Finance’s, and it would not be able to propose such an exemption. However, it had requested additional funding from Treasury to cater for lost revenue in municipalities.

Mr Hoosen said he accepted the explanation for the reporting mechanism during the lockdown, as initially the expectation was that it would not last as long as it did. The Department had said that as from 1 June, reporting would be required by municipalities to Treasury. This was already indicated in a note issued by Treasury, that reporting had to happen on a 30-day basis. The oversight mechanism in the regulations was the concern. It was appreciated that municipalities could report, based on Treasury notes, but the oversight mechanism was problematic. The regulations said the municipalities had to report at the first council meeting after the lockdown had ended. As Mr Hadebe had pointed out, the concern was the oversight mechanism, as the regulations made it easier for municipalities to say they did not have to report now, but only at the end of the lockdown.

Mr Sigaba said he understood this concern, and would discuss it with officials so that a circular could be issued to clarify the matter, so that there was no confusion. Meetings had to continue as normal, as there was technology for virtual meetings and budgets still had to be adopted.

National Disaster Management Centre’s response

Dr Mmaphaka Tau, Deputy Director General (DDG): National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), said the part he would deal with had been partly covered by Mr Sigaba on funding allocated to municipalities, specifically Hantam municipality. 

The principle around the Disaster Relief Grant was to augment what would have been contributed through various sources, hence the figure per financial year was really low to cover all the needs of municipalities, and even sector departments.

The contribution made by the NDMC had to be considered in the context of other grants that had been reprioritised to cater for the needs of municipalities. There had been a reprioritisation of the following grants:

  • Integrated Urban Development,
  • Municipal Infrastructure,
  • Regional Bulk Infrastructure,
  • Urban Settlement Development,
  • Public Transport Network, and
  • Public Transport Operations.


There was a suite of funding available, but it was important to ensure a coordinated implementation of the funding streams to make the necessary impact at the local level. Against this backdrop, the District Development Model became a critical vehicle to ensure that funds were coordinated and fit for the purpose of municipalities.

On homeless shelter matters in municipalities, he noted the issue raised by Mr Hadebe and would engage through the Disaster Operations Centre with the province and municipality for clarification.

From a technical standpoint, the arrangements that existed at the national level in terms of compliance and enforcement through the security cluster, which cascaded down to the provincial and municipal levels, should be the mechanism that ensured that there was compliance with regulations. The significance of this matter would continue to be instilled and promoted. Compliance began with the understanding, raising of awareness and significance of respecting directions and regulations. The issue of advocacy and awareness had to be strengthened to ensure communities comply. The role of local councillors and other role players at the municipal level became very critical.

The Chairperson asked if Dr Tau, as the NDMC, did not know the details of the Cape Town homeless shelter.

Dr Tau responded that personally he had not received the details regarding the closure of the shelter, but appreciated receiving details.

Mr Hadebe said it was unfortunate, as the matter had been broadcast on all media platforms. It was worrying and disturbing that the Department had missed this. He would appreciate it if an urgent follow up was undertaken. The Department could not be seen to be allowing an open defiance, as if SA was a federal and not a unitary country. All regulations passed nationally ought to be embraced and enforced by all spheres of government. He was very concerned that the Department was not aware of the matter.

Department of Traditional Affairs response

Mr Mashwahle Diphofa, DG: Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA), said the Level 3 regulations (regulation 34) stated that what happened at religious gatherings had to be in line with the directions issued by the Cabinet member responsible. In this case, the Minister had issued directions, and some of the issues raised by Members were covered in the directions. On the issue of several buildings in one place, the directions defined what a premise or place of religious worship meant. Irrespective of the size and number of buildings, if people entered what was designated as a place of worship, the limit of 50 persons would still apply. The length of religious services was specified as two hours in the directions. 

Mr Groenewald said the DG had not covered question on whether marriages could take place in a church.

Mr Diphofa said the direction did not specify the nature of the religious service, and as long as the necessary regulations and directions for religious gatherings were followed, a marriage could occur. The issue was not the nature of religious services, as this was not for government to determine, but rather that the restrictions were adhered to.

The Chairperson said the issue raised by Ms Opperman had not been adequately addressed. The Committee had received a presentation from SALGA regarding the fiscal response to municipalities. There was an example of Hantam municipality that SALGA had presented, and had reported that out of the R150 million budget allocated to municipalities, it had received only R21 000 against a R175 820 cost per month for personal protective equipment (PPE) for councillors and municipal staff. The Committee wanted to know where the rest of the money would come from. A response on the matter had not given, and it was an area of concern because the total cost of providing PPE per employee was R1 980 for nine councillors and staff. The reallocation of funds was understood, but it was now day 63/64 of the disaster, and if the money was not released municipalities would have to wait for the normal Division of Revenue Act (DoRA) issue to happen. What would happen between now and then, as the municipalities had to fully respond and needed funds immediately?

On the issues raised by Mr Hadebe, she said SA was not a federal state and the Committee expected the Department to be aware of everything, especially as the NDMC. The issue of Strandfontein had been publicised in the media, and for the Department to say it was unaware of the issue meant something was not right. There had to be clarity on the matter.

Dr Tau said the Hantam municipality, as well as other municipalities, had received a lower amount than what had been expected. As he had indicated, the Disaster Relief Grant (DRG) was by design an allocation to top up what had been reprioritised from various sources. The figure allocated had to be read in context with other reprioritised funds.

The District Development Model arrangement that was currently coming into place would help to ensure that the Department mobilised, and galvanised to put all the resources together to deal with the needs where there were gaps in resource allocations. That was how the matter would be dealt with. Currently, the remaining amount was very low, but he was not in a position to commit that there would be any additional money available from the DRG.

He had noted the Members’ concern about Strandfontein, and the Department would attend to it.

COGTA Deputy Minister’s response

Mr Parks Tau, Deputy Minister, COGTA, responded on electricity tariffs, and said it was important to note it was municipalities that made tariff decisions, particularly on electricity, and then made an application to the National Energy Regulator South Africa (NERSA), which was the body authorised to approve the tariff. COGTA was not a regulating authority on tariffs. It provided support to municipalities to the extent that was necessary and important, but the approval was the responsibility of NERSA. NERSA had a formula to determine tariffs and, to the best of his knowledge, it did not accommodate municipalities having an increase of 80% or anything of that nature. It would be best for NERSA to present its formulae for determining tariffs and approving tariffs applied for by the respective municipalities.

On Hantam municipality, Members had to note that the Disaster Relief Grant (DRG) was about R150 million, and because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department had taken a conscious decision to use the equitable share formula, because unlike disasters dealt with from time to time, Covid-19 affected the entire country. Instead of waiting for municipalities to apply for the DRG, the Department thought it would be appropriate to use the equitable share formula to disperse the DRG. The equitable share formula was the immediately available mechanism of dispersing the DRG, but this did not mean there were no other resources directed to local government. Other resources would include the R20 billion stimulus package, where the selection criteria for allocations were still being made. Thereafter announcements would be made, as well as other mechanisms.

COGTA Deputy Minister’s response

Mr Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister, COGTA, responded further on the religious guidelines, and said the marriage ceremony’s religious element was allowed, but the marriage as an activity which had cultural celebratory aspects was still prohibited. Cultural activities were not yet open in level 3.

On municipalities’ websites not being up to date, he said those with outdated websites were financially distressed municipalities. Funds in those municipalities especially considering Covid-19 pressures, were prioritised for service delivery to needy areas. Websites would improve only once municipal financial situations improved. The Covid-19 pandemic would affect their revenue, which meant a number of municipal administrative functions would suffer, so the context of the matter had to be considered.

During the initial disaster declaration, it had been stated that municipalities had to continue to function in an accountable manner, with all oversights by the councils carried out to ensure accountability. Oversight remained the anchor for ensuring that the democratic order remained the same. This applied to any procurement as well -- committees had to continue their oversight and be assured that if municipalities were no longer carrying out their oversight function, COGTA would ensure municipalities adhered to their mandate.

Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) response

Mr Ntandazo Vimba, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) MISA, said the construction sector had been severely affected by the lockdown, which had slowed down infrastructure projects. With the gradual easing of the restrictions, the sector had started operating. The emergency water project was gradually being implemented.

The reprioritisation of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) had been approved in May. Many municipalities had been supported. Some were supported by MISA and other sector departments to finalise the registration of MIG projects. Some municipalities had started implementation of the emergency water measures.

Hardware stores had opened during Level 4 and many projects, particularly on water tank installation. that had been slow were now seeing an increase in implementation. 14 000 of the 19 000 tanks that were distributed to municipalities were now being used, due to the work done to ramp up implementation.

Minister’s response

Minister Dlamini-Zuma said she hoped most councils would meet now and complete reports, and if a circular had to be sent reminding them, it would be done. The suggestion about expenditure on websites did not seem like a problem, and the Department would attend to it.

Referring to the regulations, she said the issue was something that everyone was dealing with for the first time in 100 years, and the regulations passed had been informed by advice from sector departments. For example, the regulation on the movement of children was based on what the Department of Social Development (DSD) advised, taking into account child care laws, and the regulations were created accordingly.

The Department accepted that in some instances there were gaps or issues in the regulations, but they had been amended as they went along. There was no prior knowledge on how to deal with the pandemic. For example, with the issue of people who needed to move between provinces, the regulations had to be amended as it was a gap that had not been foreseen.

When the regulations were published, it was an alive document and not cast in stone, because issues might arise. In the first 21 days of lockdown, there had been a strict prohibition of movement between provinces, but then it was realised that the way communities were structured, some people worked in different provinces to where they wanted to be buried. The regulations had been amended to cater for that.

The regulations were not perfect, but the Department was trying to accommodate issues that arose that may not have been foreseen.

She assumed the question about day care centres was about Early Childhood Development centers (ECDs). From level 5, in terms of care, the regulations accommodated care services for the elderly, the mentally ill, people with disabilities and children. If the Member had meant ECDs, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the DSD had not concluded when the ECDs would open, therefore they were not included in the regulations. The matter had, however, been discussed with the relevant departments, which were still consulting on the matter and would come back to COGTA.

Regarding evictions, the initial formulation in the regulations had been a response to evictions in the first 21 days of lockdown, when people could not look for alternative accommodation or move around, so evictions were not allowed. The Department of Justice had said the formulation had to be revised after 21 days to allow the courts to deal with eviction cases, therefore the formulation was amended.

The Department had heard about the issue of homeless people. The mayor of Cape Town had said it had closed the big shelter and would move people to smaller shelters, but some people did not want to be moved to these smaller shelters. The Department had told the Mayor the people had to be put in shelters, and the Mayor had responded that maybe it had been a mistake to close the big shelter, but he would give the Department a full report by Monday and try to ensure that people were in shelters.

On the issue raised by Ms Mkhalipi about why there was a rush to open all levels, she said at the beginning of the meeting she had explained that it was a very difficult situation in South Africa because when Covid-19 came, the economy was bad, unemployment was high and in the middle of the pandemic, the country was downgraded by the rating agencies. The lockdown also meant that a lot people did not have work, and most of them did not have savings to rely on. That was why the President had had to come up with a package to try and augment all of this. The reality was that lots of people did not have a livelihood, and according to the WHO. The country should open up only when infection rates went down. However, in South Africa’s case the figures were going up, but a balance was needed between saving lives and livelihoods.

People must not be killed by hunger while the state tried to save them from the virus. It was a very difficult issue, because employers had been given strict regulations to prevent the spread of the virus in workplaces, but this was not a guarantee. If there were cases of the virus spreading in the workplace, it would be closed -- workers would receive treatment, and contact tracing would happen. Quite a number of essential services had been closed as well due to the virus, therefore it was a difficult situation to balance livelihoods and saving lives. There was no one to rushing to kill black people -- there was no democratic government that would want to kill people -- and she thought it was an unfortunate way of putting it.

On the Addington hospital situation, she said COGTA did not have the capacity to go and view all the places in South Africa, and it therefore relied on the relevant ministers and departments.

Before the end of the financial year, there had been money in the Disaster Fund that had been sent to the provinces for them to try and start dealing with health matters. Dr Tau could correct her if she was incorrect, but an amount of R466 million had been allocated to health, as advised by the NCCC at the beginning of the pandemic. There would be reporting on this to the different sector departments, as well as on the condition of Addington hospital.

She wanted to clarify that the NCCC was not chaired by the COGTA Minister, but by the President.

Alcohol was a difficult issue, considering the potential impact on hospitals, especially as emergency units and intensive care units (ICUs) had beds freed due to the decreased injuries. The NCCC had considered this, and that was why it had put some restrictions in place. Even before the lockdown, during the first phase, taverns and shebeens could open but had to close at a particular time. The NCCC had tried to create limitations by limiting the number of days alcohol could be sold to four, and only between 9am-5pm as well as only as a takeaway. Shebeens and taverns could not have people sitting down and drinking. It was a difficult matter, but it would be monitored closely, and issues that were raised would be reported on.  

Regarding the opening of churches, some people in society approved of it and others did not. The regulations were not saying people had to go to church, but rather gave them the option with restrictions in place. The timeline was two hours for services, and no service may exceed this.

The Department was not aware of a church with many areas of worship on the same premises. More than one service was allowed, but the initial group of 50 people at a service had to leave before the next group of 50 people could come in for another service, However, services in different buildings was not catered for.

On the people who had responded to the consultation on tobacco, she said the consultation was sent out on the 25th, closed on the 27th and was gazetted on the 29th. The comments had been received. She hoped Dr Tau would comment on this because it was his team that dealt with the responses. The responses that the Department received were over 2 000, and because the time was short, that was what Dr Tau and his team had informed the Minister about, after looking at the responses. The responses had been put on spreadsheet, but the lawyers wanted each email. The lawyers would check for duplications, but she was not sure how many were actually published in the court papers. The Department did not go out to mislead South Africans.

Follow up questions

The Chairperson asked Members to be considerate of the time.

Ms Mkhaliphi thanked the Minister for responding on the Addington issue, and said she hoped the Minister of Heath would take up and resolve the matter.

She asked the Minister to comment on the issue about disaster management and SASSA not giving food parcels, as well as the R350 grants not being processed. The Department’s only option was disaster management functions, but it was confirmed that many municipalities did not have money. Could the Solidarity Fund empower disaster management at lower levels to intervene?

Mr Groenewald asked if the Minister could follow up on day care centres which were not usually classified under ECD, and clarify the situation with the DBE Minister, and have the omission of grades one and two rectified.

Mr Hadebe said he requested a detailed report about municipalities that could have virtual meetings and those who could not, so that the Committee could do oversight, and so that municipalities could not use it as an excuse for not holding meetings. The information on the 90% of municipalities that passed budgets and IDPs, as well as those who did not, was also required for assisting the Committee’s oversight.

Mr Hoosen said he appreciated the Minister’s response about the 2 000 emails. He had taken it at the time when the Minister made the announcement that there were 2 000 objections, and she had inadvertently done so based on the information she received. He accepted the explanation. It was now a correction that at the time the Minister made the announcement that there had been 2 000 objections to the un-banning of the cigarettes announced by the President, that actually there were not 2 000 objections, as had now been discovered later on.

The Chairperson said Mr Hoosen was putting words in the Minister’s mouth.

Mr Hoosen responded that he was giving the Minister the opportunity to confirm what he said, because that was what she had essentially said.

The Chairperson said he was sorry for interjecting, but Mr Hoosen had to be mindful that this was a matter being regulated in court.

Mr Hoosen said he understood and was not mentioning anything that was not in the public domain, and was responding to the comments made by the Minister. He accepted her version of events and understood that at the time, things were moving at full speed. The Minister had been fair in her response that these things happened under the circumstances. He was not being critical, but he needed clarification. If it was an error that was made, there had to be honesty.

He asked at what stage of the lockdown regulations, the ban on tobacco would be lifted.

The Chairperson said as she understood it, the Solidarity Fund was meant to respond to the disaster, but wanted to know when the NDMC could have access to the Fund. As indicated by the officials, the R150 million was already depleted. How would the NDMC access the Solidarity Fund and what was the discussion around this?

The question on whether religious counselling would be categorised as an essential service had not been answered.

Mr Ceza said he wanted to raise the issue of hotspots in municipalities, because those areas had to be reported to the Committee. Areas in Dr JS Moroka municipality, ward 26-31, had not received potable water since the beginning of lockdown, therefore there was a high risk in that area. The water tankers within that area served only Siyabuswa and some of the tankers were already in areas which had running water.

The Chairperson said Mr Ceza had interjected before she finished her question.

Minister’s response

Minister Dlamin-Zuma responded to Mr Hoosen, and said she had just checked with the team and there were 2 060 emails that had objected, but the Department had to check whether some of them were duplicates. The emails could be produced, but whether some were duplicates was the question. She could not answer the question about the tobacco ban being lifted.

She was not aware that SASSA was no longer giving food parcels. She would take the matter up with the DSD Minister.

She would talk to the chairperson of the Solidary Fund, because she knew it was giving out food parcels. The Fund chairperson had earlier told her that besides giving food parcels, it also wanted to see if it could assist people with seeds. She would ask if the Fund could help people who really needed food parcels and find out if it was still handing them out.

Regarding water and tankers, the Minister of Water and Sanitation had announced the centralisation of Jojo tanks and water tankers. She would follow up on the Member’s concerns about water in JS Moroka ward 26-31 with the Minister.

She would talk to the Minister of Basic Education on Mr Groenewald’s issues.

She said that in consultations, some religious leaders had told the President that they had counselling services in their churches that they would like to utilise. The NCCC had then agreed that counselling services could be used. The classification of essential services was not necessary, because a lot of things -- not only essential services -- had been opened, so counselling services could open. Level 3 did not mention which services were essential.

Chairperson’s closing remarks

The Chairperson apologised to the COGTA team that wanted to present on the section 139 municipalities, as it could not proceed. The meeting had already run over time. This was an important matter, and the Committee would have to find a slot to discuss the interventions.

She thanked the Minister and her team. The Committee was mindful that COGTA was the lead department for the national disaster, and appreciated all the work done. The Department could bank on the support of the Committee. She appreciated that the Committee would be briefed before the transition to Level 2 of the lockdown, and was looking forward to further engagement with the Department

The meeting was adjourned.