The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has urged the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) provincial government to be unafraid to dissolve municipalities that are not improving, even if they are under administration according to Section 139 (1)(b) of the Constitution. The committee expressed this view in a meeting with the KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Sipho Hlomuka, on the first day of an oversight visit to assess the state of the municipalities in the province.

“If we are serious about good governance, we should be able to take difficult decisions. We can’t be bogged down by being afraid to take difficult decisions even though the prevailing conditions of those municipalities are clearly affecting service delivery and negatively impacting the lives of the people. Why are we afraid to implement 139 (1)(c)?” asked Ms Faith Muthambi, the Chairperson of the committee.

The committee heard that despite the interventions, six of the nine municipalities under administration received negative audit opinions for the 2018/19 financial year. Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality received an adverse audit opinion; Umzinyathi District and Mpofana Local municipalities received disclaimer audit opinions; while Richmond, Uthukela, Msunduzi and Mtubatuba local municipalities received qualified audit opinions. 

The provincial government acknowledged that some municipalities face challenges that may suggest they should be dissolved. However, political instability in those municipalities makes it impossible to dissolve them. “In some cases, even when we dissolve, the same councillors are re-elected, perpetuating the same challenges experienced before. Also, if litigated against, the province must provide proof that enough support was given to a specific municipality,” Mr Hlomuka explained.

The committee also raised concerns about four municipalities under administration still in debt to Eskom, which negatively impacts on Eskom’s ability to function. The four are: Abaqulusi Local Municipality, owing R11 million; Mpofana Local Municipality owes R197 million; Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality owes R15 million; and Msuduzi Local Municipality owes R108 million.  

The committee was also alarmed to hear that only three of the nine Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs) are functional in the municipalities under administration according to Section 139. The committee heard that MPACs are either partially functional or dysfunctional in the other six municipalities under administration, which negatively impacts governance, accountability and effective consequence management. “This negatively impacts the ability of the municipality to investigate occurrences of unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and undermines governance of the municipality and its ability to undertake effective consequence management against those in the wrong,” Ms Muthambi emphasised.

Despite these challenges, the committee welcomed the cooperation between KZN’s treasury and cooperative and traditional affairs’ departments in supporting the municipalities according to Section 154 of the Constitution. The committee emphasised that the provincial government must strengthen Operation Sukuma Sakhe, which is intended to ensure a coordinated approach to challenges in the province. Furthermore, the committee called for the improvement of service delivery and for effective management of the municipal’s financial resources to ensure that the municipalities meet their constitutional obligations.

Malatswa Molepo
7 October 2020