Much Work Still Needed to Fix Dysfunctional Municipalities

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

The following is an address by James Masango to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, during the Debate on the Policy and Budget Speech of the Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs: Vote 4

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has the most daunting task of converting our ailing municipalities into credible institutions that communities can have faith in. Local municipalities are seen as the face of government and their failing projects is a bad picture to government as a whole.

Most of Mpumalanga’s municipalities are financially bankrupt and dependent on national government grants to sustain their existence. It is clear that if nothing drastic is done, some of these municipalities are in danger of being declared insolvent. The failure by municipalities to collect revenue, is not only putting a burden on to national or provincial government, but on to the communities at large. Since this has been prolonged for some time now, service delivery has also collapsed due to a shortage of funds. It is now difficult for municipalities to implement stricter credit policies, because it is difficult to ask the indigent community to pay for service delivery, if it is non-existent.

Due to lack of capacity, municipalities are unable to maintain their infrastructure, unable to spend on the Municipal Infrastructure Grant, unable to purify water for human consumption and unable to operate sewer plants in accordance to the law. In all 18 municipalities, on many occasions, the sewers are overflowing into the streams and rivers; this alone is a national crisis as water is a scarce resource and it is being polluted from all sides. The question is for how long this is going to be allowed to happen?

And the reason for the collapsed service delivery is cadre deployment, nepotism, connections and bribery in all sorts of names. While municipalities are being crippled by corrupt officials and public representatives, these connected officials don’t have a problem even if they are caught and fired, as they are just re-employed at other municipalities again in a corrupt appointment.

The case in point here is Mr George Mthimunye who caused a poor Dr JS Moroka municipality more than a million rand for a senseless action of his own make as a Municipal Manager. He is now re-employed at Emalahleni Municipality as a Municipal Manager. The appointment of Jeffrey Maake as CFO of eMakhazeni from Tzanini is odd, when the Hawks are still investigating him for fraud.

Some municipalities have been under administration, but nothing has changed. The Thaba Chweu municipality has been under administration three times. Today as we speak that municipality is the worst municipality in Mpumalanga.

Once the municipality is unable even to cut grass, what else can be expected from it? The lack of capacity, fraud, corruption and interference by ANC councillors has killed service delivery in Thaba Chweu.

Thaba Chweu municipality should be one of the better municipalities, given the fact that it has towns like Graskop and Pilgrim’s Rest which are tourist destinations. These are economic hubs for Thaba Chweu, but because of the failures by the ANC led municipality, tourism in those towns has collapsed. Service delivery at these two towns is very poor. The streets of Graskop are full of potholes, the town is filthy, grass is tall and uncut and RDP houses have been built without toilets or electricity.

Billing system has been a problem in some municipalities, but in others, this is done intentionally to collect more revenue from the loyal payers.

Honourable MEC, the failure of the municipalities is the failure of your department. Therefore you need to work harder in order to get best results from these municipalities.

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