Beacon of hope now shadow of its past

2011-05-14 18:53

Dr JS Moroka municipality was once a beacon of hope for all small councils because of good governance, but it is now rapidly degenerating into a state of malfunctioning.

This rural municipality is situated north-west of Mpumalanga province in Siyabuswa with just about 245 000 residents in 59 villages.

By virtue of its poverty-stricken population and being in a rural area, Dr JS Moroka fails to attract skilled staff and generate revenue.

All of the municipality’s past achievement reflect in the awards it has won, but now a political war of ANC camps between Mayor Innah Masombuka and municipal manager Monica Mathibela has sent its administration into a downward spiral.

Mathibela has been on suspension since June 2010, despite having won at least seven times in the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and Labour Courts to be reinstated.

She was finally fired this week after a report by the Auditor General said the municipality’s finances were in shambles.

The opposition Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in the council concurs that the municipality was well-run until the political tug-of-war reared its ugly head.

“Honestly, the municipality was doing well and Mathibela was performing her job. If we were not going for elections, we would start feeling the effects as early as June because morale is so low that staff members are on a go-slow and portfolio committees are no longer sitting,” said PAC councillor Richard Maoka.

“It is worrying that she is being removed for political reasons,” Maoka added.

Although, Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor Tarzan Mkhabela is not completely satisfied about service delivery, he also conceded that the infighting had worsened matters.

“This infighting contributes to lack of services. The municipal manager was suspended but no one can tell us what she did. However, why this municipality won the Vuna awards is surprising because they’re failing to deliver services,” Mkhabela said.

It is no mean feat that the municipality has won:
» The 2010 Blue Drop award from the Department of Water Affairs for being in the top 10 among South Africa’s 243 municipalities and water boards for providing portable water of cleanest quality.

» The provincial Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Vuna award for public participation, which recognises structures and systems that are able to solve communities’ service delivery problems effectively and in time.

» Another Cogta Vuna award for spending every cent of its Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) in the 2009/10 financial year.

That was achieved because of good planning that takes into consideration the tedious tendering processes, which take about three months for service providers to be appointed.

Dr JS Moroka municipality generates a paltry R9-million as its own revenue from bulk water supply to two neighbouring municipalities – Greater Sekhukhune District (Groblersdal) and Thembisile Hani – and its vehicle licensing departments.

The rest of the budget – R157-million for capital spending and R76-million (MIG) – comes from national and provincial governments.

The reasons for the municipality’s deterioration are found in the strife within the ANC factions of Premier David Mabuza and provincial ANC deputy chairperson Charles Makola, who also serves as the manager of Nkangala District Municipality. Mayor Masombuka is in Mabuza’s camp while Mathibela goes with the Makola group.

Their differences have spilled over to administration, and recently issues of tender irregularities, unaccounted taxpayer funds and the municipality’s failure to submit annual reports to national treasury are coming to the fore.

While the provincial government and opposition agrees that Mathibela was on the right track, Masombuka is hell-bent to get rid of her.

Each time, she gets an order from the CCMA or Labour Court to be reinstated, Masombuka appeals.
Still there are no charges or reasons why Mathibela was suspended in May this year.

Masombuka suspended Mathibela on June 30 last year a day after her R1.4 million house was torched during service delivery protests, which according to evidence presented before the Siyabuswa Magistrate’s Court, were organised to remove her as she refused to flout tender regulations for politically-connected individuals to benefit from a R15 million security tender.

The mayor said Mathibela’s suspension is as a result of the community complaints. She instituted a forensic audit investigation, which she has refused to table before council or give to Mathibela even after the CCMA issued an order as the probe ostensibly targeted the manager.

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