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Cogta MECs decry political instability and interference in municipalities

The financial health status of nearly 80% of municipalities is concerning or requiring urgent intervention, according to the auditor-general.
The financial health status of nearly 80% of municipalities is concerning or requiring urgent intervention, according to the auditor-general.
Image: 123rf.com/Leon Swart

Political instability and political interference have been highlighted among contributors to the failure of municipalities to perform their duties, which in some cases lead to municipalities being placed under the administration of provincial governments.

MECs responsible for co-operative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) in the country's nine provinces briefed the National Council of Provinces about the role provinces play in supporting municipalities.

They identified a range of shortcomings which include a lack of internal controls, poor financial management, irregularities in supply chain management but uncharacteristically, they also spoke frankly about the negative role politicians and political parties play in municipal administrations.

Eastern Cape Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha described political interference as a big problem, which he said his province was beginning to tackle.

Nqatha said many municipalities in the province were good performers a few years ago with reserves in their accounts but those municipalities were now struggling to pay staff salaries.

“Many of them, have got to do with this thing called political interference which is the elephant in the room, and factionalism,” said Nqatha.

He said they were determined to strengthen consequences for wrongdoing, for both politicians and managers who are involved in wrongdoing.

Nqatha said in a situation where there was state capture, networks were established and people benefited.

“Now there has been an emerging fightback when people are being held to account, gravitating to the extent of people wanting to delegitimise Cogta as a role player in local government

“Some people are thinking that Cogta must wait for the municipality to attend to issues of wrongdoing and if you come and attend to them, it is regarded as a problem,” he said.

As part of ensuring there is consequence management, Nqatha said municipalities were now submitting their section 71 reports to him on a monthly basis as opposed to a quarterly basis and that correct people who are qualified and fit-for-purpose would be appointed to positions.

Nqatha vowed to put a stop to the recycling of people, who are appointed in various municipalities either as managers or CFOs whom he said “leave a trail of wrongdoing behind them”.

“We are saying that has got to come to a stop and we are putting measures to make sure that it comes to a stop.”

He said some of these senior officials had been in municipalities for a long time, and during their time, each financial year is characterised by poor performance and yet those people are not held responsible for this.

The Free State's Thembeni Nxangisa also put the problems of the three municipalities — Mangaung, Maluti-a-Phofung and Metsimaholo — that are under administration in the province at the door of political instability.

Nxangisa said the political environment in all three municipalities had to a large extent affected administrations and consequently made the municipalities fail to perform their duties and that's why there were these interventions in the municipalities.

“What is common in these three municipalities is that in Mangaung you currently have a political impasse such that the current mayor has been removed by a vote of no confidence,” he said.

“In Maluti-a-Phofung, you have serious political instability where the mayor had to go through at least nine votes of no confidence and he had to resign and we had by-elections there which were highly contested and there was a lot of tension,” said Nxangisa.

In Metsimaholo, a hung municipality with no clear winner, politicians play politics, he said.

“For a period of a year, a council meeting could not sit because it was disrupted. For a period of three years they could not employ a CFO, a technical director or a director responsible for community services. The municipal manager there had been on suspension for three years,” said Nxangisa.

Mpumalanga's Cogta MEC Mandla Msibi spoke of intimidation of officials seconded to help build capacity in struggling municipalities in the province.

At the Lekwa Local Municipality for instance, which he said had been “closed” for five weeks with no service delivery, there was a high rate of vacancies in the municipality.

“When CFOs and directors are employed there, they only stay for three months because of the high levels of political instability,” he said.

A forensic investigation was started in the fifth administration, and a report was finalised at the beginning of the sixth administration, he said.

But it has been difficult for the province to implement its intervention plan because as it was preparing to present the plan, which included putting the municipality under administration, a special council meeting was convened and the speaker and the executive mayor were removed.

Msibi said three directors were seconded from the provincial government to the municipality.

“Because of the high level of infighting both in the political and administrative leadership, they find it difficult to be able to cope and do work,” he said.


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