EC MUNICIPALITIES – A HOUSE OF CARDS ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE
- Instead of being focussed on driving service delivery issues, the Department is managing unmitigated failures of several EC Municipalities.
- The Department is failing to assist struggling municipalities to implement meaningful social and economic change.
Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable members and guests, good afternoon.
Honourable Speaker, the core services of local government is to deliver basic services, provide clean drinking water, electricity, sanitation, shelter, waste removal and roads. These are basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution and these are essential components of the right to dignity.
That means that every effort of government must be focussed on improving the lives of South Africans. As we continue to fight against the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, we need all spheres of government and all organs of state to effectively deliver on their responsibilities to make South Africa a better place to live for all the people. But, the service delivery buck stops with local government.
For local government to sustain itself, it must invest in local infrastructure, institutionalise good governance, generate revenue and create a conducive environment for local businesses to grow and create job opportunities.
It is, therefore, with concern that 15 municipalities in the Eastern Cape are failing and in complete financial distress.
The fact that Finance Minister Nene wants the Eastern Cape government to take over 15 municipalities that are in distress is an indictment on the leadership in this municipalities and this province as it is the responsibility of the Department of COGTA to assist and intervene when municipalities are struggling.
Nene said: “It is not that they [the municipalities] do not have the money. It’s because they plan to do things they don’t have to do. So it’s actually poor planning, poor budgeting.” And “Municipalities are at the coalface of service delivery. If we do not have the capacity for municipalities to execute their duties, then we have a problem.”
Honourable Speaker, we do not need Nene to tell us we have a problem, we have known that we are on a collision course with municipal disaster for years.
The municipalities in distress include Makana, Ngqushwa, Enoch Mgijima, Emalahleni, Intsika Yethu, Great Kei, Dr Beyers Naude, Sakhisizwe, Walter Sisulu municipality, Ndlambe, Komga, Inxuba Yethemba as well as the Chris Hani and Amathole District Municipalities. These municipalities are in a so-called ‘service delivery crisis’.
What is even more alarming is that only Makana Municipality drafted a financial recovery plan in terms of the MFMA for National Treasury. This tells us two things: the officials in the municipality are either unwilling or incapable of drafting a recovery plan and secondly that the municipalities in the Eastern Cape need assistance from COGTA to draft these plans. What has been done to assist these municipalities?
The National Development Plan prescribes that the State must provide the institutions and infrastructure that enable the economy and society to operate and that in a society with deep social and economic divisions, neither social nor economic transformation is possible without a capable developmental state. Honourable Speaker, the 2018 policy speech highlighted the building of a developmental local government as its first goal and along with it the development of efficient and effective municipal institutions.
Therefore, Honourable Speaker, an efficient public administration is a critical enabler that lays the foundation for a partnership approach between the government and South African citizens in which the government works to deliver opportunities and citizens take responsibility to use these opportunities to improve their own lives.
We are facing enormous service delivery and development challenges as a country. These challenges can only be addressed by a government with the necessary political will to ensure that all its resources are used in the service of the people of South Africa and with the necessary systems, capacity and skills to deliver services effectively.
What is of further concern is the number of municipalities that are struggling to follow the letter of the law and are simply flouting provisions of local government legislation such as the Systems Act, the Structures Act and the MFMA, and it is interesting to note that these are the same municipalities that find themselves in financial distress.
But our troubles don’t end here! When the Municipal Demarcation Board decided in 2015 that the municipal boundaries of Camdeboo, Ikwezi and Baviaans Municipalities had to be re-determined — let me be frank — that decision was the start of yet another unmitigated disaster in this province. These municipalities are bankrupt, they are sinking and the people are suffering!
The amalgamated municipalities are struggling financially with massive debts outstanding to ESKOM, SALGA and SARS, the Auditor-General and the Employees’ Pension Fund.
Some municipalities have now reached a critical point in terms of non-compliance stretching over a year since the 2016 Local Government Elections.
The bottom line is this: if a municipality is unable to properly administer the affairs of the municipality it must be placed under administration or dissolved. If a municipal council is not functioning in accordance to the letter of the law, it must be placed under administration or dissolved. Failure of a municipality to meet executive obligations is just another way of saying – the municipality is failing its people.
Instead of driving issues, we are trying to mitigate the aftermath of violent service delivery protests.
Instead of fighting poverty, delivering services and putting people in this province on the path to prosperity, we are struggling to keep half of our municipalities financially viable.
Instead of investing money to realise key deliverable outputs of service delivery and infrastructure we are spending 82.1% of the budget on compensation of employees.
We should be focusing on improving the lives of our people. Instead, we are focussing on maladministration, fraud, corruption and the malicious flouting of legislative prescripts be rogue municipalities.
Our time should be better spent.
Our money should be better spent.
Our resources should be better spent.
And our people should have been much better off, 24 years after democracy.
Honourable Speaker, there is a complete inability by the state to drive meaningful social and economic change. Violent protests and lawlessness rules the day and we are only one spark away from complete anarchy if we don’t act now! Yet, the Department has no budget set aside for the rapid response unit.
The Democratic Alliance will continue our efforts to root out corruption, incompetence, non-compliance and cadre deployment in municipalities. We need to become a coherent government that provides effective services and that monitors the implementation of policies and legislation.
In conclusion Honourable Speaker, effective government and governance can improve the lives of all South Africa’s people. Our decisions and actions as government must be aimed at delivering these improvements to all South Africans. Let us always put the people first.
Honourable Deputy Speaker, the service delivery buck stops with the sphere of government closest to the people, local government.
The DA supports the report by the Department.