Dissolving some municipalities ‘not final’

2010-12-08 07:27

No final decision has been made about dissolving weak municipalities around the country, Local Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka said.

Some provinces were “in a rush” for the process to take place but Shiceka said the decision would be based on reports which were expected to be submitted by members of the executive council in January next year.

These would detail which municipalities should be done away with.

“We can’t do away with municipalities before the local government elections (next year),” Shiceka told journalists in Pretoria, adding that those municipalities pushing for the consolidation of municipalities would have to present their case which would then be dealt with by the demarcation board.

He said there were about 70 to 75 municipalities identified as “weak and needing support”.

“They have no tax base, no revenue base.

They are more of employment agencies.

We will remove them; they are not adding value.”

The Local Government Turnaround Strategy was seen as one vehicle that would address this problem as it was aimed at improving systems at local level.

Already 98% of municipalities had adopted it and their July 1 budgets would be based on it.

The ANC also discussed the issue of one election – as repeatedly advocated by Shiceka – and the scrapping of district municipalities during its meeting last week.

In this two-day meeting focusing on provincial and local governance, the ruling party’s national executive council supported his view of only one election.

It however resolved that a commission be established to investigate in this regard, as well as on matters concerning municipalities.

Shiceka said the high-level commission would broadly look at governance matters and ensure a system that would save costs but deliver quality.

Although the ANC had taken a stance on this, other political parties and the general public would also be allowed to make their voices heard in relation to these matters.

“We don’t want this to become an arbitrary decision taken by the ruling party,” he said.

He reiterated his department’s intention to “clean up and refashion” the system before 2014.

“South Africa will have new municipalities then.”

Meanwhile, Shiceka said the department had identified over 30 laws and 350 provisions in the Municipal Systems Act to be scrapped, as they hampered service delivery.

These laws include the environmental impact assessment law which was based on the Environment Management Act and the Land Use Management Act.

He described these as having “ugly consequences”.

Shiceka said the amendment on these laws would also ensure that by 2014, as per an agreement signed with President Jacob Zuma, “we hit the ground running”.

“The rubber must hit the tar in terms of ensuring that things change,” he declared.

Shiceka also highlighted how local government still needed to be given its “rightful place” in the history of South Africa in terms of what it did.

He said local government was financed in a way that did not empower poor municipalities.

“It is based on numbers and statistics – how many people live there and then are you getting more money – it doesn’t look at service records, poverty index, and topography.”

To address this, an intergovernmental fiscal relations summit will be convened next which will focus on among others, the allocation of money between national, provincial and municipal levels.

“We want to change the system completely because we believe that local government plays an important role.”

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