West Rand merger: Let the facts do the talking

By Solly Msimanga MPL, DA Gauteng Provincial Chairperson:

West Rand District Municipality Mayoral spokesperson, Dennis Mangope, must stick to the facts of the consequences of merging four West rand municipalities into a single metro.

While the DA is certainly opposed to the merger, our position is informed by researched and factual evidence – and the effects of such mergers on service delivery and people’s quality of life.

The proposed West Rand Metropolitan municipality will start off on the back foot, as it will be saddled with a combined debt of over R1,5 billion – a severe blow to quality service delivery.

This figure excludes Westonaria, who as a result of continuous financial mismanagement, could not report on its debtors. One can only imagine how much more debt the new metro would be saddled with after this has been added.

While mayors and municipal officials claim that the merger would assist individual municipalities struggling with service delivery issues, the fact is that streamlining service delivery mechanisms and practices will have massive cost implications on the new metro.

Furthermore, claims that sharing and redistribution of financial resources would improve service delivery standards and efficiency are completely misguided as the metro inherits more debt than income.

The formation of a West Rand Metro will severely affect the quality of life of almost a million of Gauteng’s residents, and government must heed the lessons learnt from the Tshwane experience – where after four years, despite increases in rates hikes, it still struggles with a debt burden of over R1 billion – and only received R20 million from national government towards the costs of its merge.

According to the Municipal Demarcation Act, certain criteria must exist when considering the formation of a metropolitan municipality. These include but are not limited to:

  • Population size;
  • Geographical size;
  • Infrastructure; and
  • Economy

A West Rand Metro would be the second largest metropolitan municipality in Gauteng, but would only have a population size one fourth that of Johannesburg, the province’s most densely populated. It would have the highest levels of unemployment and numbers of people living in informal settlements.

Given the West Rand District’s current state of affairs, the establishment of a metropolitan municipality would struggle to meet these very pressing needs.

In fact, a merger is now being regarded as the panacea for all service delivery ills, while other more effective intervention methods in existing legislation have been ignored and cast by the wayside.

Stronger financial and administrative controls in the local municipalities and the district itself are required – and the political will to implement these measures.

There are many successful instances of strong, competent local municipalities in South Africa – Midvaal is a perfect example in Gauteng

The people of the West Rand deserve local government that is close to them and in tune with their service delivery needs – and a merge into a metropolitan municipality will have the opposite effect.