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Municipalities in financial crisis

By Anna Majavu | Oct 21, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

MUNICIPALITIES were in deep crisis because of political power struggles and unemployed people who could not afford to pay for services.

The huge debt of R53billion owed to municipalities by government departments was also not helping the situation.

This was said by President Jacob Zuma at a meeting of the country's premiers, MECs for local government, mayors and executive mayors held at the OR Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, yesterday.

Zuma said he wanted to see "fundamental changes" in the way municipalities were governed.

He said in some municipalities, councillors interfered with management.

"They want to be mayor and municipal manager at the same time.

"In some cases even chief whips give instructions to the mayor," he said.

Zuma said provincial and national government had not always played a "useful and productive" role in municipalities and called for a "drastic rethink" of the relationship between municipalities, provincial and national government.

The mayors applauded loudly when Zuma said provincial and national government sometimes "made decisions that had serious implications for local government without consulting it".

"Those who function as the executive give an oversight to themselves. There must be a problem in that arrangement," Zuma said.

He said municipalities face several other problems.

"Many municipalities were bankrupt, many people were unemployed and could not pay for services.

"Coupled with this is the fact that municipalities are owed revenue by other government spheres.

"The R53billion is due to them from many (government) departments that are not paying for services. Why are they not paying? I don't know," Zuma said in frustration.

Outside the meeting the police had erected a steel fence to keep residents of the informal settlement across the road away.

A few people propped themselves up against the fence for most of the morning, showing no sign of wanting to get into the meeting.

Zuma warned that political power struggles in municipalities were leading to "effectively dysfunctional" municipalities and a widening gap "between the governors and the governed".

"You then get the alienation and frustration that is often reflected in the destructive protests we have all witnessed," Zuma said.

The media was asked to leave "so that mayors, premiers, MECs for local government and cabinet ministers could have a private briefing on the recession" from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Zuma had earlier pointed out that "against a background of global economic crisis we really do not have the type of resources we need to fulfil our goals".


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