The state of North West municipalities has been described as the worst in the country, with 86% of them listed among the 163 categorised as being in financial distress nationally.
This information was presented during a cooperative governance and traditional affairs portfolio committee meeting on Tuesday, which focused on the ever-deteriorating state of municipalities in the province and interventions to address it.
The committee heard that there was not a single stable municipality in the province, where 10 municipalities were categorised as being dysfunctional, while five were candidates for dissolution following Cabinet’s decision to invoke section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution (which empowers relevant provincial executives to dissolve the municipality) in relation to 64 municipalities nationally.
“While no province has perfect municipalities, we’re really concerned about North West in terms of the worst state of governance in municipalities,” cooperative governance and traditional affairs deputy director general, Themba Fosi, told the committee. He said 19 municipalities out of the 22 in North West were in financial distress.
North West Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs MEC Mmoloki Cwaile told the committee that the number of municipalities that were candidates for dissolution could increase to six. He said the province had decided that the Vryburg-based Naledi Local Municipality should also be dissolved.
“We are holding the view, like the directive of Cabinet, that five of the municipalities must be dissolved, [but as the province we will] be including other municipalities [such as] Naledi, which is facing litigation from civic organisations. Before the courts prescribe how we should govern, we should just get that concluded,” Cwaile said.
City Press has also learnt from sources that legal advice was being sought on the possible dissolution of Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, in which four of the five municipalities set for dissolution are situated. Among issues being looked at are the possibility of the district being dissolved if the four municipalities are dissolved, because its council is made up of councillors seconded from local municipalities who would not be councillors any more once section 139(1)(c) has been invoked. The district municipality has been marred by water supply challenges that have been impacting negatively on local municipalities in the past five years.
Meanwhile, according to a report by the department of cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs in the province, only four municipalities in the province were stable are Bojanala, Moretele, Greater Taung and Dr Kenneth Kaunda.
Lekwa-Teemane, Matlosana, Kagisano Molopo, Naledi and Rustenburg were categorised as being at risk. Ratlou, Madibeng and Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati were currently under section 139(1)(b) intervention and, together with Mamusa, Kgetlengrivier, Tswaing, Mahikeng, Ngaka Modiri Molema, Ramotshere Moiloa and Ditsobotla, were named as the 10 dysfunctional ones, although not all of them were earmarked for dissolution. Cwaile said some of them, such as Mamusa, would undergo business rescue.
State of local government: dire situation
Meanwhile, Fosi also gave the committee a broader picture on the country’s 257 municipalities in what he called the state of local government barometer. He outlined several challenges that led to the dire situation, including political issues where some municipalities found themselves with two mayors as political infighting raged on, poor oversight by council committees that were not able to adopt budgets and unfunded budgets, among other challenges.
The Eastern Cape was named as having 11 dysfunctional municipalities out of 39, with no stable municipalities. KwaZulu-Natal also has 11 dysfunctional municipalities and one stable one out of 54, followed by the Free State with 11 dysfunctional municipalities and none stable out of 23.
Fosi said a comprehensive action plan has been developed and key projects identified as part of government’s plan to address challenges at the struggling municipalities. The plan will include short-term plans that will see potholes being patched, refuse collected, street and traffic lights repaired, and sewage spillages and water leaks addressed.
In its medium-term plan, water and road projects are scheduled to be completed, among other projects, while bulk water and sanitation projects were identified under a long-term plan.
Fosi said the service delivery plan of action in North West would require an estimated R3 billion. He added that some money would be sourced from municipal budgets, municipal infrastructure grants, water services infrastructure and regional bulk infrastructure grants.