Gauteng premier contradicts MEC on West Rand merger

By Ina Cilliers MPL, DA Constituency Head: Merafong:

Gauteng Premier David Makhura and cooperative governance MEC Jacob Mamabolo are on a collision course over the feasibility of merging West Rand municipalities into a metropolitan area, as the premier supports the DA’s assertion that lumping dysfunctional municipalities together will not improve service delivery to neglected residents.

Earlier this year, the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordhan requested the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) consider his request to merge the local municipalities of Randfontein, Mogale City, Merafong and Westonaria into a single metro.

This decision was aggressively taken up by MEC Mamabolo, who appointed a transformation manager to oversee this process before the MDB had publically advertised the Minister’s intentions, or completed any other legislative processes.

The DA has been critical of this move and has opposed the merger from the outset.

These local municipalities are plagued by service delivery protests, are often without water and electricity, are mismanaged or cannot account for public funds, and are constantly identified by the Auditor General as areas in dire need of intervention.

Should this merger go ahead, the collective debt for the region will sit at R1,5 billion – which will severely compromise quality service delivery.

According to the latest Government Gazette on Gauteng’s municipal statements, West Rand municipalities carry a massive debt burden outstanding more than 90 days.

  • Merafong – R588,95 million;
  • Mogale City – R629,89 million;
  • Randfontein – R199,01 million; and
  • West Rand District – R1,146 million.

However, MEC Mamabolo was unable to provide this information when questioned over the financial impact the merger will have on the region, simply indicating that it would be assessed after the merger was completed.

Surely the MEC would at least take the effort to investigate the financial implications of a merger before rushing headlong into the process.

However, last week, during the budget debate for the Office of the Premier, Premier Makhura clearly stated that ”The merger of municipalities cannot be a panacea to poor management and poor leadership, I agree with you (DA)”.

While the DA welcomes the Premier’s sound judgement, it is of major concern that the quality of life of almost a million people in the West Rand are plagued by the uncertainty caused as a result of the contradicting messages from the premier and the MEC.

The merge will severely affect the quality of life of people living on the West Rand, and government must heed the lessons learnt from the Tshwane experience.

The DA will continue to use all legislative resources within our means to prevent this merger to ensure the residents of the West Rand are afforded the services and quality of life they rightfully deserve.