This week, the MEC of COGTA, Xolile Nqatha, confirmed that he had approached national government for funds to bailout 14 unsustainable, bankrupt Eastern Cape municipalities.
He also mentioned that provincial government was considering amalgamating these failing municipalities with more successful institutions.
Amalgamating municipalities is simply a smokescreen, instead of taking decisive action, the MEC is kicking the can down the road. It is also highly unlikely that these municipalities will receive national bailouts.
This is exactly what his predecessor, former COGTA MEC Xolile Xasa, did in 2016, when municipalities in distress were amalgamated with successful municipalities, reducing the provinces municipalities from 45 to 39.
It must be noted that all the amalgamated municipalities from 2016 are on the new list of the 14 failing municipalities that MEC Nqatha now wants to bail out.
Instead of improving service delivery, the failing municipalities that were amalgamated have dragged down the successful institutions they were merged with.
It is also extremely concerning that the province has only now decided to step in, when municipalities are on the verge of total collapse and are unable to pay staff salaries and wages, such as in the Enoch Mgijima Municipality who have been unable to pay staff this month.
The Amahlati Municipality has been unable to pay staff for four months!
Is it only when the pockets of their cadre deployees in local government are affected that the ANC Provincial Government seen fit to step in?
The DA has been calling for intervention in these municipalities for several years. In November the DA revealed that combined debt to ESKOM was over R 1.1 Billion and growing. This is a clear indication of how these municipalities have been mismanaged.
Amalgamation is not the answer and will only amount to more suffering, and a complete failure in providing services to the people of the Eastern Cape.
The Democratic Alliance believes that these municipalities must be either dissolved in in terms of section 139(1)( c) of the Constitution and new elections must be held, or the municipalities that are not already under administration must be placed under administration in terms of section 139 (1)(b) up until the Local Government elections next year.
Forensic audits must be conducted in each of these municipalities and those accountable must be charged and concrete turnaround plans must be drawn up and implemented.
The people of the Eastern Cape deserve better. When the sphere of government closest to the people fails, its the the people who suffer the most, as service delivery collapses in its entirety.