Municipality turnover

2008-12-03 00:00

Not long ago the uMgungundlovu District Municipality seemed to symbolise everything that was bad about local government in South Africa. Constantly mired in scandal, managed by officials severally revealed as corrupt, incompetent, ineffectualor totally unqualified to hold their posts (municipal manager Monica Mngadi famously held a one-day MBA degree and a bible college “doctorate”), its financial affairs were in such disarray that the Auditor-General was unable to make a proper assessment of its accounts.

Now, five months since the culprits were ousted, the A-G has given the municipality a clean audit. Those credited with the turnaround are acting municipal manager Sbu Khuzwayo (seconded from the department of local government), chief financial officer Walter Muwandi (seconded from the KwaZulu-Natal treasury) and mayor Yusuf Bhamjee (deployed from the KZN legislature). Truly remarkable was the fact that no changes were made to the staffing of the financial division, whose every member worked long hours, even over weekends, without asking for any overtime pay.

How did this apparently miraculous change come about? The answer seems to be that Khuzwayo, Muwandi and Bhamjee were the right people put in the right place at the right time. And Khuzwayo and Muwandi, praised by Bhamjee for their single-mindedness and strong work ethic, led by example to the degree that the staff were galvanised into the hard work necessary to retrieve the situation.

And so, from having stood as a byword for dysfunction, the uMgungundlovu Municipality, under efficient and committed and intelligent leadership, has become a beacon of hope. As we applaud this achievement, let us hope that it serves as an inspiration, not only to other municipalities, but to all levels of government.

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