Gauteng Premier David Makhura has confirmed that the embattled Emfuleni municipality has officially been placed under provincial administration. Its mayor, Jacob Khawe, who tendered his resignation a week ago, has withdrawn his resignation.
Speaking at a media briefing on the Section 139 Comprehensive Intervention evoked on the cash-strapped municipality on Monday, Makhura said the province would now have financial control over the struggling municipality which includes the towns of Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark in Gauteng.
Makhura assured residents that the action taken on the municipality was a clear indication that there would be no municipality that would collapse under his watch and to clear speculations that the move was politically motivated.
The premier said the intervention contrary to media assumption suggesting that the intervention was motivated by “the looming provincial ANC conference” and his will to maintain a stronghold on the province was misleading because the action was only motivated by “the needs of communities” as they were his priority.
Makhura has been accused by ANC Youth League members of placing the municipality under administration to undercut Khawe’s campaign to contest Makhura’s ally, Hope Papo, as secretary of the party in the province.
“The provincial executive council decided to institute a comprehensive intervention plan in line with section 139 in order to ensure minimum standards of service delivery to communities and ensure financial viability through a financial recovery plan.
“We do not want to politicise service delivery,” said Makhura.
The premier also said his administration was well aware of the failings of the municipality for a few years because services providers such as Eskom and Rand Water had both written him letters informing him of the municipality’s failure to settle debts owed to them.
“The first step to ensuring that the municipality returns to proper governance will start with meeting with such service providers and working out a payment plan to ensure that communities continue to receive these services,” said Makhura.
The Emfuleni Municipality has been facing major economic, financial, and service delivery challenges which have seen numerous violent services delivery protests rock the area over the past two years.
Makhura also said the municipality faced threats from Eskom and Rand Water to shut down services due to its failure to meet payments to due companies and communities not paying their bills.
The premier said his administration was aware of the fact that the municipality was plagued by high unemployment meaning that most residents could not afford to pay electricity and water tariffs. He revealed that his administration had made provisions for such individuals.
“Those who genuinely cannot pay will be exempted from doing so and a register will be circulated to document them. However, big companies and those that can pay should do so as no municipality can survive without residents paying for services delivery,” said Makhura.
Section 139 of the Constitution stipulates that where a municipality is unable to fulfil its mandate, the provincial government may intervene to ensure that it fulfils its obligations.
This evoking of Section 139 was reported by News24 as being what drove Mayor Jacob Khawe to resign seven days ago.
News24 reported that least two sources had confirmed to it that the mayor’s resignation was in retaliation to a decision to place the struggling municipality under semi-administration after only six months of him being appointed mayor of the municipality.
Makhura confirmed to journalists at the media briefing that Khawe had withdrawn his resignation and was now prepared to work hand in hand with the premier’s office to bring about a turnaround to the struggling municipality.
Makhura added that Khawe was supposed to be at the media briefing but, “due to a technicality”, was unable to join him.
Following this sudden turnaround by Khawe the FF Plus in Gauteng warned the ANC in the province not to play political games.
The party said it was concerned over the way in which the ANC dealt with the matter over the past week and said “the ANC must apologise to tax payers in Emfuleni for the inconvenience the municipality had to suffer due to an internal ANC issue”.
The provincial government intervention will include five work streams that will focus on service delivery and enhancing revenue collection. It will be under administration for six months.