City’s fate in the balance

2019-04-05 14:51

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After repeated calls for provincial government to intervene meaningfully in Msunduzi, it appears that action there is imminent.

On Thursday The Witness learned through reliable sources that ANC members of the KwaZulu-Natal cabinet and the leadership of the governing party met this week to discuss the fate of Msunduzi.

Apparently it was agreed an administrative intervention was needed as several other interventions by the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) had failed to yield satisfactory results.

Section 139 (1) of the Constitution states that when a municipality cannot fulfil its executive obligation in terms of the legislation “the relevant provincial executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure the fulfilment of that obligation”.

It was not yet clear whether Cogta would be assuming responsibility for the relevant obligations within Msunduzi or dissolving council and then appointing an administrator until the election of a new council.

The reports filtered through as some ANC councillors feared they would soon be jobless since the governing party was mulling a reshuffle of its caucus.

Councillors from both the Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa factions who spoke to The Witness on Thursday said the news of the reshuffle left everyone an-xious.

“It’s not often that Cogta dissolves councils but it might actually work to the ANC’s advantage if they do that because they can avoid the animosity that is sure to surround the reshuffle.

“They can get rid of all the councillors they no longer want, then blame Cogta for it,” said one of the ANC councillors.

He said the three former DA councillors who recently defected to the ANC had been promised deployments and the ruling party had to make space for them.

Another councillor said he wondered what had changed as the ANC leadership’s stance previously refused to even consider administration.

He said they would not budge even when the nine senior managers begged Cogta last year to take over running the municipality as they alleged there was widespread corruption.

“I think things have been improving since the suspension of the municipal manager [Sizwe Hadebe], so it makes no sense that Cogta wouldn’t intervene when the municipality was on its knees but come now when things are taking a turn for the better.

“This makes me wonder whether this administration is for the benefit of the people of Msunduzi or serving someone’s political agenda,” he said.

Lennox Mabaso, spokesperson for Cogta in the province, on Thursday said he did not want to be drawn to comment on the rumour mill at this stage.

“We do not communicate any decisions that are speculative.

“If any decision is made, we will communicate it ...” he added.

Opposition: Cogta's intervention long overdue

Councillors from opposition parties have been calling for the City to be placed under administration since council received a tongue-lashing from the office of the auditor-general when Msunduzi received a disclaimer audit opinion report last year.

On Thursday they all said Cogta’s intervention was long overdue.

They were optimistic that it would give Msunduzi a fresh start to rebuild itself to its former glory that saw it getting a clean audit in 2014/2015.

IFP’s Thinasonke Ntombela said: “I suppose it’s better late than never but this will give the people of Msunduzi the stability they’ve been yearning for and hopefully that will translate to better service delivery than what they are currently being subjected to.”

On Thursday there was no clarity on whether Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube would make her announcement before council’s approval of the 2019/2020 budget, which is anticipated to take place at the end of this month.

Ntombela said this was dependent on the type of intervention the department planned to impose on the municipality but there would not be a problem if it was Section 139(1) b.

His sentiments were echoed by Reinus Niemand of the ACDP, who said he hoped council would be dissolved as it has repeatedly failed to provide leadership needed for the proper functioning of the municipality. He said the recent strikes within the waste and finance departments were some of the signs of a collapse in governance.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said: “If it’s true that we will finally be placed under administration then all we can say is ‘at last!’”

He said the municipality was in a financial crisis and the service delivery was almost non-existent.

“Restoring Msunduzi to a state of functionality is as easy as ABC. It just requires a political will from the ANC.

“So unless we get a new council, then we will be back to the state of dysfunctionality as soon as the administrator walks out the door.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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