Is uMngeni a rogue municipality?

2009-06-10 00:00

ALLEGED maladministration and corruption by officials of the uMngeni Municipality come as no surprise. For over two years, the Democratic Alliance has been ringing the alarm not only about the administration but also about the liability of council.

We can be proud that our Constitution is the first in the world to incorporate municipalities with autonomous powers that allow for democratic rule of the people, by the people, with the people, and not just for the people — but we find that when such powers are abused, provincial government is helpless to exert authority other than through the courts, an expensive and time-consuming exercise that is not readily pursued. And besides, so insidiously can non-transparent and non-accountable rule evolve that it might not be seen for what it is.

The majority of the council may refuse to engage in debate, while permitting management to dominate with not a single correction ever being raised. Sanitised minutes may no longer represent a true reflection of council meetings. Then, having sidelined the public’s elected representatives, the administration may turn a deaf ear to the public itself by simply ignoring complaints, even petitions signed by hundreds if not thousands of residents.

With meaningful public participation and transparency reduced to lip service, the next casualty is accountability. The municipality may unilaterally choose what legislation to abide by and what not to, for example by establishing a recycle industry in the centre of town without adhering to the requirements expected of the public. It chooses what bylaws to implement, for example by failing to act against noise, littering, urinating in the streets, illegal signage, breaches of special consent for use of properties and traffic violations. It chooses what services to provide, for example, by failing to repair roads, traffic lights, streetlights, water leaks, cut grass verges, by allowing human waste to flow for years past people’s front doors into the town’s river and over the highest sewage falls in the world. It chooses who to charge rates to, with hundreds of homes not appearing on the valuation roll, and many incorrectly valued. It chooses which service providers to pay on time, for example, by not paying Eskom and the suppliers of the mix required for repairing potholes, it puts a town’s electricity supply at risk and endangers people and vehicles travelling on its roads. Small things in themselves perhaps; but collectively?

Emboldened by the ease of its disregard of the ratepayer and their elected representatives, the municipality may take to snubbing higher authorities. It dismisses Access to Information Act applications that seek to ensure the public are honestly informed, ignore a ruling by the Human Rights Commission in respect of retirement villages, snubs reservations by the Provincial Treasury concerning the municipality’s budget, denies an enquiry by the Provincial Legislature as to whether the municipality is compliant in paying creditors, disregards a report by the auditor-general on the irregularity of the purchase of a house for the mayor, and rejects a directive by the Receiver of Revenue that the mayor’s residential expenses are not a “tool of the trade”.

It mocks the justice system itself, in the face of no fewer than eight criminal charges. Then, for almost a year, it defies a request by the MEC Local Government to publicly table a forensic report into alleged maladministration and corruption in the municipality, before holding a secret meeting, the resolution of which is bizarrely denied not only to the public but kept secret even from the councillors involved.

If this is rogue rule, the future integrity of local government in South Africa is at stake — and it could be lost or saved on the battleground of uMngeni.


• Tim Lindsay-White is an uMngeni Municipality DA councillor.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.