Parliament, Wednesday, 17 February 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), yesterday interacted with the Govan Mbeki Local Municipality; the South African Local Government Association (Salga); Provincial Treasury; and the Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the state of the municipality. This was followed by a meeting yesterday evening with the North West Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the state of Dr JS Moroka and Lekwa local municipalities.

In her opening remarks, the Chairperson of the Cogta Committee, Ms Faith Muthambi, said: “There has been widespread negative publicity around the Govan Mbeki Local Municipality. Central to this negative publicity has been the municipality’s failure to meet its service delivery obligations to communities, especially with regard to the provision of electricity. This has seen violent service delivery protests involving the burning of municipal property. The municipality remains categorised as dysfunctional.”

The committee has noted the support subsequently offered to the municipality by Cogta, Treasury and the district, including support in terms of Section 139 (1) (a) of the Municipal Finance Management Act, which involves the preparation of a recovery plan. The committee is concerned that this support is reactive and comes after severe damage has already occurred.

The intervention into the municipality’s Eskom debt crisis was also late. The escalation of the matter to the MEC and the Deputy Minister happened only after the debt had ballooned to R2.1bn and Eskom had rejected the municipality’s repayment plan and enforced power cuts. This issue remains unresolved.

During the meeting on 4 September 2020, the Provincial Cogta informed the Portfolio Committee that it was in the process of making a submission to the Provincial Executive Council to escalate the current intervention in terms of Section 139(1) (b) of the Constitution. The committee notes the report from Cogta that, four months later, an intervention notice has yet to be submitted to the Minister. This is another example of a delayed intervention. By the time the provincial executive finally submits the notice of intervention to the Minister, the municipality will have deteriorated further. It will then be too late for the intervention to make any meaningful difference to the people of Govan Mbeki; in the same way in which the financial recovery plan has failed to improve the financial health of the municipality, said the Chairperson.

Cases such as Govan Mbeki Municipality illustrate clearly why national Cogta needs to start implementing Section 139(7) of the Constitution. The committee has already stressed this a few times in previous meetings, including making an explicit request for the department to apprise the committee of the role it has played in terms of Section 139(7). The committee has to date not yet received a satisfactory answer.

The committee also heard of the ailing infrastructure and unfinished projects in Govan Mbeki Municipality. where there is a quarry between extension 6 and 8 where the Nxumalo family lost a child. The committee was also shocked to see pictures of an injured lady and an 8-year-old child who were electrocuted, as there were live wires at an electricity site left unattended by the municipality. The municipality was requested to account for this dereliction of duty towards their communities.

The evening meeting focussed on Lekwa Local Municipality, following the committee’s interaction with the municipality on 4 September 2020. Dr JS Moroka Municipality was not present at the meeting. The committee raised its concerns around the slow pace and impact of the constitutional interventions into Lekwa Municipality. The state of the municipality seemed to be deteriorating, with disclaimed annual financial statements and no functioning Municipal Public Accounts Committee to investigate unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in respect of the 2018/19 financial year.

The committee had previously instructed the leadership of the two municipalities to address the issues and to report back. However, the committee heard that these communities are still suffering. The MEC for Cogta, Mr Mandla Msibi reported that some communities in Moroka Municipality have been receiving water from tankers, as the Mkhombo Dam has been dry for a few years. The committee also heard that at Rooikoppen at Lekwa Municipality, water and sewage spilled over onto the roads and that the roads were in disrepair, making those roads unsafe for emergency vehicles to pass through to the extent that an ambulance could not get to an elderly patient on time to save her.

The committee also heard that the municipality was not in a position to pay Eskom and that electricity was switched off for almost six hours a day, resulting in residents going to court to get relief. Mr Linda Dhlamini, the mayor for Lekwa Municipality, said that the municipality is trying amid a difficult terrain and has engaged the Development Bank of South Africa and Rand Water to assist with repairs and maintenance of the water infrastructure. The committee was informed that R28m of Municipal Infrastructure Grant funding will be prioritised by council to address the water and sanitation issues at the municipality. The committee was further advised that arrangements were made to service the municipality’s R1.1 billion debt to Eskom, with the municipality, residents and businesses paying directly to Eskom.

The Chairperson asked for an update on the consequences for the councillor who abused municipal resources for his own gain by drilling a borehole on his private premises and then filling it with sand using a municipal truck. When officials are involved, the municipality is quick to take action. However, the pace is slow when councillors are involved, she said. As this incident occurred at Dr JS Moroka municipality, the committee will await a response from them.


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