New broom Tarr set to clean up uMsunduzi

Newly appointed Pietermaritzburg mayor Mike Tarr yesterday admitted that when he took over as the head of the embattled Msunduzi municipality, he had no idea of the extent of shambles the city was in.

Tarr's predecessor, Zanele Hlatshwayo, was recalled last month amid allegations that her leadership had plunged the city into financial ruin.

Despite the challenges, Tarr, pictured, whose father Ashton Tarr was mayor of the city 30 years ago, said he was ready for the daunting challenge.

Tarr's job, together with the administrator Johan Mettler, is to restore the "City of Choice" to a functioning municipality.

"The picture is worse than what was previously anticipated," said Tarr, a former MPL, who assumed mayoral duties on March 25.

In February it was revealed that the municipality was close to bankruptcy, with just enough funds to see it through for seven days.

Last month, the municipality was placed under the administration of Mettler by MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs Nomusa Dube.

Mettler said his priority was to produce "a credible budget" and hunt down corrupt employees.

"Any corrupt employee must get out. When we find you, you will be fired, disciplined and charged criminally.

"And we will find them through paper trails.

"We have no shortage of good employees who are willing to come forward to give evidence of corrupt practices," Tarr said.

"Another challenge is to improve staff morale that is currently very low."

Tarr said another challenge awaiting him was to assist Mettler in recovering the more than R400million the city is owed in unpaid electricity, water and rates.

"At the moment there is a huge problem with refuse collection, particularly in the townships.

"Some trucks are broken while others need urgent servicing.

"Areas like the townships suffer the most as a result of the city's lack of money," he added.

Tarr emphasised that most of the more than 2000 Msunduzi Municipality employees were good, honest employees with "a few rotten apples".

"I don't see my job as walking around with a chain around my neck. Nothing would make me happier than to see the municipality functioning effectively again," he said.