While the cooperative governance and traditional affairs committee in Parliament welcomed Cabinet’s decision to dissolve at least five troubled municipalities in North West – along with 40 others countrywide – it was emphasised that the process needed to be carried out in a way that would address the root cause of the challenges.
The municipalities earmarked for dissolution are Ditsobotla, Ratlou, Ramotshere Moiloa, Tswaing and Kgetleng.
Several municipalities in North West are almost completely dysfunctional due to factional battles that have left some of them with parallel political leadership structures – for example, two mayors and two speakers – leading to ongoing and costly legal battles over these positions.
In other cases, municipalities have rejected interventions from the provincial government, with administrators being denied access to buildings.
The friction has caused massive administrative challenges, which has also led to worsening service delivery.
Committee member Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi said:
“The situation we are dealing with is nothing more than factional battles of the ANC and, unfortunately, we have to come and be part of those factional battles. I know as politicians ... when we don’t have any solutions in terms of political factions of the ruling party, we are very quick to say administrators must come with solutions when the problem is not administrative [but] political.”
Another committee member, Khanya Ceza, agreed with Mkhalipi’s sentiments.
“Ministers and decision-makers must make a conscious decision about permanently resolving infighting. Mamusa [Local Municipality] was dissolved and went for by-elections, but the problems still exist to this day,” Ceza said.
“The cooperative governance and traditional affairs department must tell us whether they have measures to ensure that the interventions are genuine [and] that they don’t seek to purge others who are not in agreement with a particular leadership at the provincial level.”
North West Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs MEC Mmoloki Cwaile confirmed that challenges have plagued Mamusa since the January 2020 by-elections.
“We do not have political stability [there]. This makes it very difficult for administration to make redress. We are also contemplating subjecting Mamusa to business rescue and we hope it will help us,” he said.
An executive member of the SA Local Government Association, Bheki Stofile, who was part of the committee meeting, also spoke about political instability.
“Challenges pertaining to political instability are often parachuted into governance matters and, as a result, municipalities focus on their own internal political differences while service delivery is highly affected. It becomes problematic in a highly toxic political environment trying to come in and resolve governance matters,” he said.
The committee met to discuss the situation at Lichtenburg-based Ditsobotla Local Municipality, which finds itself with two mayors and a terrible score on service delivery.
Committee chairperson Faith Muthambi said:
“The municipality has been under section 139 intervention on numerous occasions, but has never been dissolved. The sooner the MEC implements the Cabinet resolution in Ditsobotla and other identified municipalities, the better.
“There is no reason for a municipality to exist if its main focus is on fighting internal political battles rather than providing basic services to its communities.”
Hope for long-lasting solutions
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs deputy director-general, Themba Fosi, told the committee that work was under way to ensure that the dissolution of municipalities would not be in vain.
“Cabinet has asked us to develop municipality-specific support and intervention plans [that] must address the root causes and provide a road map of what steps must be undertaken to ensure in the medium to long term that these municipalities are self-sustainable. If a municipality has been getting disclaimers for the past five years, it means the new administration [post elections] must then have a clear plan on what needs to be done,” he said.
State of affairs
Asked to describe the state of municipalities in the province, Cwaile, who welcomed the decision to dissolve some of them, said there was a dire need for “serious intervention and political education for politicians who are deployed, as the recent developments have shown that most councillors don’t plan their roles but use council money to fight for their political survival in courts”.
“Councils have, on many occasions, challenged in court [the provincial government] resolutions for interventions and when the municipalities bore the legal costs. Workers should also avoid being entangled in political battles at municipalities and do their jobs, and note that a councillor’s term of office is only five years, but employees still continue with the municipality thereafter,” he said.
The ANC in North West has welcomed Cabinet’s decision.
ANC interim provincial committee spokesperson Kenny Morolong said: “We welcome all efforts by both the provincial and national governments to intervene in terms of the Constitution of the Republic, and we implore these two spheres of government to intervene expeditiously as the situation in our municipalities has become dire and untenable.
“These municipalities have effectively collapsed and they are unable to fulfil their constitutional obligations. They are unable to provide our people with basic services and they are unable to meet their financial obligations. It is our people who bear the brunt of these dysfunctional municipalities. The patience of our people has been overstretched.”