“Do we call it intervention or interference?” This was one of the main questions posed by Members of Provincial Legislatures on the Municipal Support and Intervention Framework on day one of the Local Government Week.
The objective of the session was to reflect on the dialectical relationship between Sections 154 and 139 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa towards a developmental state. Section 154 states that national and provincial governments must support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs; while Section 139 states that the provincial government has a mandate to intervene to assist distressed municipalities.
Briefing the meeting, the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said Section 139 should be used as a last resort. Ms Dube-Ncube said officials should be encouraged to exercise discretionary interventions whereby the executive should admit when they are unable to exercise their executive authority.
She was also of the view that national government departments should be held more accountable for the failures in municipalities, since municipalities often spend funds on things which should be provided for by national or provincial government departments. “Municipalities unfortunately cannot fold their arms and say that this is the responsibility of the national or provincial government,” said Ms Dube-Ncube.
Mr Bhekumzi Stofile, who is the member of the National Executive Committee of Salga, raised his concerns over the increase in the usage of Section 139 on municipalities during the 5th Parliament term. Mr Stofile said a number of weaknesses have been identified in Section 139 intervention processes. He stressed the importance of cooperative governance as a means of ensuring that municipalities do not end up in trouble.
He said the national and provincial governments behave as a “big brother” by stating that “municipalities do not do this, or municipalities do not do that”. Further to this, he stressed the importance of developing an “early warning system” to provide an appropriate hands-on approach to ensure that municipalities do not face the intervention of provincial government as provided in Section 139.
During the discussion on intervention legislations, the majority of Members agreed that municipalities should find plausible means of improving their financial sustainability.
By Felicia Lombard
9 May 2018