Fred Nel MPL
Spokesperson on Local Government
The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) finally announced the meeting schedule for the public to air their views on proposed municipal boundary changes in Gauteng. While the DA in Gauteng welcomes the decision to consult the public on the far-reaching proposed changes to municipal boundaries in the province, we are disappointed in the manner that it is being done. The MDB has once again limited consultation in the most contentious proposed boundary change in the province – to merge the DA-led Midvaal with Emfuleni – by only scheduling one meeting on the proposal for a new metro in southern Gauteng.
The MDB has an obligation to ensure that public meetings are held in all the affected municipalities and its decision not to hold a meeting in the Midvaal municipality is a clear attempt at stifling public participation. Meetings in the province are held during the day when scores of affected residents will be at work, effectively side-lining them from the process making inputs hollow and limited. The MDB also waited until the last possible moment to publicly announce the dates, times and venues for the public meetings giving very little time to advertise them to the public. It is clear that the MDB is only conducting public meetings as a tick box exercise and that it has probably already made up its mind about the proposals.
The public participation process has clearly been designed to make the process as easy for the MDB as possible to justify its preconceived notions about municipal boundaries in Gauteng. If the Demarcation Board is serious about consulting communities about the far-reaching proposals it would have gone to great lengths to involve communities in the process instead of this half-hearted attempt.
If the MDB does not improve its public liaison efforts it may well be faced with more protests like the one we saw in Zamdela earlier this year stemming from the proposal to merge Free State municipalities.
The DA calls on the MDB to schedule more meetings for public consultation and to include all affected areas. The MDB must also conduct these meetings at accessible venues during accessible times to ensure all communities have the opportunity to air their preferences.