Speech notes: Reaction to SOPA 2020 by Vicky Knoetze, MPL

Issued by Vicky Knoetze, MPL
Shadow MEC for COGTA

THE TRUE STATE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN THE EASTERN CAPE – A THIRD OF LOCAL MUNICIPALITIES HAS COLLAPSED!

A third of the Local Municipalities in the Eastern Cape are in a free-fall and in state of distress – this is the true state of the Province.

SOPA was silent on 14 Municipalities in Distress, the State of Basic Service Delivery in the EC which is the poorest province in South Africa, the lank-mark Judgement in Makana and the R 1.1 billion owed to ESKOM by EC Municipalities.

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable members and guests, good morning.

Last week, while the Premier was delivering the State of the Province address, the MEC of COGTA was in the process of negotiating with National Government for funds to bailout 14 unsustainable, bankrupt and collapsed Eastern Cape municipalities.

Yet, the Premier of the Province did not breathe a single word about the fact that ONE THIRD OF THE MUNICIPALITIES IN THE EASTERN CAPE ARE IN DISTRESS, BANKRUPT, UNVIABLE AND COLLAPSING!

One would think that it is essential information for a State of the Province Address, A THIRD OF THE PROVINCE HAS COLLAPSED!

According to information, the plan will be to amalgamate these failing municipalities with more successful institutions.

Honourable Speaker, 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. It is like putting a band-aid on a broken leg!

This is exactly what was done 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. 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.

It is also extremely concerning that the province has only now decided to step in, when municipalities are on the verge of total collapse while the Democratic Alliance has warned of this since 2017!

 

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) where section 154 interventions have failed. 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.

WE WANT ACTION AND WE WANT IT NOW!

Honourable Speaker, I thought that it would be impossible to ignore the combined debt of municipalities to ESKOM which has stood at over R 1.1 Billion in November last year already – apparently it is not impossible – as not a word was mentioned about this imminent disaster.

Honourable Speaker, we are waiting with baited breath – we want to know in no uncertain terms what the Province is going to do to provide assistance and support to these municipalities as cutting the power to these municipalities will not put the monies owed in ESKOMs pockets, all it does is punish consumers who have already paid as it is the municipalities that fail to pay the funds over to ESKOM. Through you, Honourable Speaker, meetings, roadshows and power cuts will not pay the accounts. We need a clear, unambiguous way forward.

I can tell you today, on this podium, the Enoch Mgijima Municipality will be in default of its payment plan to ESKOM this month and Sunday’s River Valley Municipality is in default and Amahlati will not be able to pay ESKOM – the even worse news is that last month they chose to pay salaries instead of its creditors, this month they will not be able to pay either!

The people of the Eastern Cape deserve better. When the sphere of government closest to the people fails, it’s the people who suffer the most, as service delivery collapses in its entirety.

Speaking of the delivery of BASIC SERVICES, Honourable Speaker, I am so concerned about the fact that no mention was made about what we will do in the Province to expedite access to the most basic of services – water, electricity and sanitation.

Last week, people from the poorest province in the country, the Eastern Cape, listened with hope to the Premier when he delivered the SOPA, the fact is, Honourable Speaker, 32% of the people listening has no access to piped water, only 53.4% has access to flush-toilets, 18% have no access to electricity and 38 000 of them are still using pit toilets.

How will the Premier fulfil promises of increased employment opportunities and economic growth if the most basic of services cannot even be delivered.

However, Honourable Speaker, basic service delivery in the Eastern Cape is collapsing under the pressure of crippling debt, maladministration and huge amounts of irregular expenditure and the fact that local government is simply not CAPABLE of governing – at the end of the day it is the people of the province who suffer, amongst them is South Africa’s most vulnerable.

The fact that the courts, on two instances in the last couple of weeks had to make land-mark decisions to protect the people of the province from poor governance – the first was in the case of Makana in terms of which the court decided that the municipality must be dissolved because it is failing to deliver even the most basic services to its residents.

The silence about the effects of a judgement like this on the EC is DEAFENING, Honourable Speaker.

The second was in Sunday’s River Valley Municipality where the appointment of the CFO had to be set aside because it was irregular and unlawful. I have it in writing, Honourable Speaker from the MEC of COGTA in June of last year already, when I wrote to him that the appointment was irregular – he said, “there is nothing irregular about this appointment”. We want an explanation Honourable Speaker and we want it now.

Honourable Speaker,

Instead of fighting poverty, delivering services and putting people in this province on the path to prosperity:

Instead of investing money to realise key deliverable outputs of basic service delivery and infrastructure:

We are struggling to keep half of our municipalities financially viable.

While we should be focusing on improving the lives of our people, we are focussing on maladministration, fraud, corruption and the malicious flouting of legislative prescripts by 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, 26 years after democracy.

In conclusion Honourable Speaker, effective and capable 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.

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 – these are the things that only a CAPABLE STATE can deliver.

The Democratic Alliance will continue in our efforts to root out incompetence, non-compliance, cadre deployment and corruption in government in general and in local municipalities specifically to build one South Africa for all. Only a DA government can create fair access to jobs and deliver better services.

Thank you.