Communities divided over Midvaal merger

Vereeniging - Communities were divided on Thursday about plans to merge three Gauteng municipalities into a metro which will include Midvaal, the only DA-run municipality in the province.

Hundreds of residents filed into Vereeniging's town hall to attend and participate in a public consultation meeting on the proposed merger.

The proposal to merge the Midvaal, Emfuleni, and Sedibeng municipalities into a metropolitan municipality was first made last year.

The proposal also suggested that the Lesedi local municipality become part of the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality.

During Thursday's meeting, presentations were made by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB), concerned parties, and members of the public.

MDB chairman Landiwe Mahlangu said the board had come to listen to the people's views on the proposal.

"We have come here to listen. We, as the board, will digest and take in all the views that were made."

Midvaal mayor Timothy Nast told the crowd the metro would have a negative effect on his municipality.

He said a large financial institution had said it would turn down a loan application by Midvaal if the merger took place.

"You are creating a bankrupt and unviable metro," Nast said.

If the board approved the proposal, the municipality would object and would be willing to go to court.

Sedibeng mayor Simon Mofokeng was in favour of the proposal.

He said the economy of South Africa was no longer sectoral and should be unified.

Collaboration would benefit everyone living in the area.

"If we can work as a team... there will be growth and development."

He said decision-making would be easier if the three municipalities merged, as there would be only one mayor and council.

"That's why there should be a metro."

He said that whether the board decided for or against the proposal, the municipality would continue to focus on service delivery.

"For us, the metro is about service delivery."

Civil unrest

Council members, political parties, and members of the public were also vocal about the merger. Some praised the idea and others said it would be disastrous.

The crowd cheered or heckled the speakers who stepped up to express their views on the metro.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions and the SA Youth Council said the merger was overdue.

The Congress of the People said the management of Midvaal's services could be hampered if it was incorporated into a metro where management was poor.

The Freedom Front Plus said civil unrest could take place if poor service delivery in the region continued.

The Democratic Alliance argued that consultations had not been sufficiently broad or inclusive, and urged the board to hold a meeting in the Midvaal and the Ekurhuleni municipalities.

Midvaal councillor Dennis Ryder contended the municipalities did not qualify to become a metro.

"We are a rural area. This is farmland. We aren't densely populated," he told the board.

The criteria for a metro included a dense population.

"There is no way we should be a metro," he said.

African National Congress regional secretary Bob Mthembu disagreed.

He said that with a metro and only one council, the money usually spent on paying individual municipal leaders could go towards service delivery.

Mthembu believed the DA-led Midvaal's reason for objecting to a metro was political.

"The reason Midvaal does not want to become part of a metro is primarily because they want to protect their political terrain."

The board said the decision on municipal boundaries had to be made by August, as the information would have to be passed to the Independent Electoral Commission for elections.

"We hope to complete this process by August. We will definitely have a decision by then," Mahlangu said.

He said if a merger took place, it would be fully effective only in 2016, when the next local government elections were due.

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