Mkhize outlines plan to fix ailing municipalities

Zweli Mkhize
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize has outlined his plan to boost infrastructure and economic development while rooting out corruption and maladministration in South Africa’s high-risk municipalities.

In an interview‚ Mkhize said his department was facing a number of challenges at municipalities‚ including “human flaws” which had led to governance issues across the board.

Only a few months at the head of Cogta‚ where Mkhize was placed as minister when President Cyril Ramaphosa reshuffled his cabinet in February‚ the former ANC treasurer-general said the department planned to focus its interventions on 87 municipalities which need urgent attention.

In his budget speech earlier this year‚ Mkhize said that 31 percent of the country’s municipalities were dysfunctional‚ while a similar number were heading down the same path.

Mkhize told SowetanLIVE that most of the problems facing municipalities emanated from “structural issues” in small towns and rural areas.

“In the long term‚ two things need to be looked at. In the first instance‚ how do we ensure that we can bring in major infrastructure as well as major investment in those areas so that you can improve job creation‚ economic growth and revenue for the municipalities? Those particular areas are going to be dependent so long as the economic situation doesn’t change. They tend to have largely poor communities‚ unemployment is very high…on their own they cannot survive‚” he said.

“The second issue is that a lot of challenges are basically about the human weaknesses or human flaws. Here we are categorising a number of challenges with interventions.”

Mkhize said his department had drafted a five-point plan to fix municipalities to focus on governance‚ financial management‚ infrastructure and service delivery‚ root out maladministration and deal with political instability.

Mkhize said Cogta was evaluating the qualifications of senior municipal officials‚ the size of various bloated municipalities and the reasons for high vacancy rates.

“You need a team that is going to intervene to deal with governance issues. We have set up teams that are going to pick up on these municipalities‚” he said.

Cogta had also noted various issues around unfunded budgets‚ supply chain management‚ poor revenue collection and expenditure management‚ and rising debt.

“For that lot‚ we have a combined team from Treasury and Cogta that is going to all of these areas‚” he said.

The department would also intervene in infrastructure development and service delivery. This would prioritise municipalities in low-income areas which do not have the capacity to employ technical experts.

“We have already‚ at this point‚ created 16 teams that are going to different municipalities. We will‚ by the end of the year‚ have covered a minimum of 55 municipalities that require attention on the municipal infrastructure side‚” he said.

Mkhize said Cogta was working with “different levels of government” to institute forensic audits at various municipalities‚ proceed with internal disciplinary measures or open criminal cases where applicable.

“That is the area we need to work very strongly on‚” he said.

Cogta is also working on quelling political tension within municipalities.

“Here you are dealing with unstable coalitions‚ factional fights in municipalities‚ and interference by political office bearers in administration or procurement processes‚” Mkhize said.

“We are dealing with unstable municipalities where there is tension between the speaker and the mayor‚ or an unstable relationship between the council and the administration.”

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