Durban – A hung KwaZulu-Natal municipality has been put under financial administration after councillors failed to adequately work together to deliver services to their community.
The eDumbe Municipality required provincial government intervention after an apparent lack of "cohesive governance" by councillors, who are said to have engaged in political infighting, absenteeism and flouting their code of conduct.
KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said on Monday that the councillors had contributed to paralysing the municipality and its administrative and technical capacity to deliver basic services.
She said that the provincial government had "tolerated this behaviour from eDumbe councillors for far too long".
Councillors needed to prioritise the plight of their communities, she said.
"From now on, we will be imposing fines and even expelling councillors found to have breached the code of conduct," Dube-Ncube said.
eDumbe Municipality council has been hung, meaning no political party has a working majority.
'Breakdown in governance'
Dube-Ncube said this had resulted in councillors walking out of the council chambers to frustrate efforts to conduct important council business.
She said the filling of critical vacancies, including that of Municipal Manager and several senior managers linked to key service delivery functions, had been delayed.
"The rules are very simple. If a councillor absents himself or herself for three consecutive meetings, the MEC is empowered to remove such a councillor. We can assure the eDumbe council that in applying the code of conduct which all of its councillors have signed up to, we will be acting without fear or favour and without any political considerations," said Dube-Ncube.
Dube-Ncube said she was in the process of disciplining the implicated councillors.
"I already have the names of the councillors that have violated the code of conduct and, as the MEC empowered by the law, I will be instituting disciplinary hearings in this regard. All implicated councillors will have to explain themselves before the disciplinary process," she added.
Dube-Ncube came down hard on the municipality, saying that one year after local government elections, public officials should be reporting back to communities.
"Instead, we are dealing with a breakdown in governance. While we accept that political parties are entitled to their differences, we will not allow anyone to play political football with the lives of our communities," she said.
Get the municipality back on track
Last week, Dube-Ncube addressed a special council of the eDumbe Municipality in Paulpietersburg, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, where she announced key interventions to "get the municipality back to the rails".
Dube-Ncube resolved to institute a "partial intervention" and appoint a financial administrator.
"[Their] role will be to introduce a financial recovery plan for the ailing municipality. The department has notified the national minister and all relevant structures of these support measures."
She said Cogta would also launch a forensic investigation, to "get to the bottom of what is causing financial distress at eDumbe, and prosecute those involved in wrongdoing".
"Even though the department is aware that the current council has inherited many of its financial problems from its predecessors, its lack of action and power games have worsened the situation over the past year."