KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Sipho Hlomuka has called on municipalities to cut down on their spending on bodyguards for politicians and officials.He was speaking at Monday’s meeting with leaders of the province’s 54 municipalities and municipal administrators to reflect on the performance of the sphere of local government in relation to set priorities.Hlomuka reflected on the increase in demand for personal security from councillors and officials. He appealed to municipalities to ensure that proper processes were being followed in providing bodyguards to elected representatives in municipalities. “Currently many municipalities incur hefty bills for the provision of security for elected representatives. While we note the importance of safety of public representatives, including officials, and it is not our desire to compromise it where real threats exist, the current practice is unsustainable,” said Hlomuka. The Witness previously reported on Cogta’s circular for municipalities to reduce the number of bodyguards to two per mayor, speaker and deputy mayor, but that was ignored by many. The meeting received a progress report on the implementation of the municipal turnaround strategy, which emanates from the assessment of the state of local government in the province. They noted that there had been a huge improvement in the filling of vacant posts at a political level in the municipalities. Hlomuka has also expressed his concern over the increasing debt owed to KZN municipalities by consumers, which now sits at R20,1 billion. “The monies owed to municipalities are also compromising their financial viability and their ability to render services to our communities. This has compromised the ability of municipalities to settle their debt to Eskom which now sits at R2,2 billion,” said Hlomuka.He said Cogta was actively assisting municipalities in their negotiations with Eskom and had provided legal advice and assistance in several cases where this became necessary. The meeting made a collective appeal to anyone who owes municipalities to pay up since those who are defaulting often include people who prioritise luxuries such as DStv and airtime instead of paying for essential municipal services, such as water and electricity. The meeting resolved that enforcement measures must be taken against defaulters urgently.