Bekkersdal: Talks of West Rand municipal mergers create false expectations

Fred Nel MPL

Spokesperson on Local Government

The DA is very concerned about utterances by the ANC and its alliance partners in Gauteng that consolidating West Rand municipalities into a metro will solve the current problems experienced in places like Bekkersdal in Westonaria. Such statements causes false expectations among communities as merging municipalities is not a golden bullet that solves service delivery problems overnight.

Of further concern is the notion that smaller municipalities are not viable and that only metropolitan municipalities are a feasible local government option. This is not true. Many smaller municipalities, especially those under ANC control, are experiencing financial difficulty due to mismanagement and corruption due to cadre deployment.

Financial woes due to mismanagement cannot be shrouded under the cloud of lack of viability as it is the root cause of such problems. Viability and mismanagement must be separated before making a pronouncement about a local municipality’s feasibility to exist as a going concern.

Small municipalities are indeed viable if managed well as is the case with the DA governed Midvaal and as was the case with Nokang tsa Taemane (Cullinan) while it was governed by the DA. There are enough government resources available to municipalities to exist in a viable manner if these resources are managed correctly.

Metros has proven to be an expensive form of local government and experiences just as many service delivery protests as smaller municipalities. It must also be taken into consideration that merging municipalities comes with a major cost and time effect that affects delivery.

The Tshwane municipality estimates that its forced merger with Kungwini, Nokeng tsa Taemane local municipalities and Metsweding district municipality cost it in excess of R1 billion, excluding operational losses inherited. It only received support of R20 million to effect the merger.

The financial impact of a merger together with rising costs of operational costs, especially staff bills and the impact of having less ward councillors will have a major detrimental effect on the West Rand if a metro is established in the area, as it will have on Sedibeng if a metro does become a reality in that area.

What is requires is a change in local government legislation that will allow provinces the choice to establish unitary municipalities without district municipalities that are not classified as metros. At the same time the system that determines the way grants are made to municipalities can be reviewed to assist municipalities with their service delivery challenges. If incentives are built into the grant system it can also promote better and cleaner management. This will counter the costs and disruptions of mergers.