By Cllr Cecilia Auld, DA Nxuba Caucus:
The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) have once again allowed the ANC to manipulate and interfere in the demarcation process regardless of objections from the communities affected.
In a truly democratic South Africa, communities have the freedom to engage with a government that is committed to fairness, transparency and responsiveness. The people of Nxuba (Adelaide and Bedford) have not been given this opportunity.
A letter sent to Cooperative Governance Minister Pravin Gordhan from the Chairperson of the MDB, Jane Thupana last week and leaked to the Democratic Alliance, makes it abundantly clear that Nxuba and Nkonkobe (Alice, Fort Beaufort, Hogsback, Middeldrift, Seymour) municipalities will be merged.
This decision has been made despite the Nxuba communities’ unanimous vocal objection to being amalgamated with Nkonkobe. It is also apparent that the many petitions and well-researched submissions made to the MDB from various stakeholder groups within the community have been ignored.
I have informed the various stakeholder groups with the Nxuba community of this decision and we are all crying foul.
We very much doubt that the MDB even bothered to examine the various submissions because if they did, they would then have been able to appreciate just how negatively this proposed amalgamation is going to affect the Nxuba.
All our objections were based on section 24 and 25 of the Demarcation Act, 1998, and also Section 2 of the Structures Act, 1998 and gave explicit reasons why the amalgamation was unacceptable and how it even contradicted government’s own legislation and its purported commitment to the people.
What further supports our claim, is that reliable sources within the upper echelons of the ANC itself informed me that the decision to amalgamate Nxuba and Nkonkobe municipalities was taken long before the MDB even commenced with their public participation roadshow, this in itself mere window dressing designed to appease the local communities and to tick appropriate boxes.
This blatant manipulation of a process that was flawed at the outset cannot be left unchallenged.
This proposed amalgamation did not comply with Chapter 2 Sec 12 of the Municipal Structures Act, namely that the MEC for Cooperative Governance must, at the commencement of the process to establish a municipality, give written notice of the proposed establishment to organised local government in the province and any existing municipalities that may be affected by the establishment of the municipality and before publishing a notice in terms of this section, consult organised local government in the province, and the existing municipalities affected by the proposed establishment. Only after such consultation, can the MDB publish particulars of the proposed notice for public comment.
Some of the issues now facing the community in this area include:
- It will dilute the right of citizens in Nxuba to accountable and democratic local government;
- The ability of providing equitable and sustainable services to residents within Nxuba will be affected negatively;
- Rates and taxes will increase significantly to provide an acceptable level of service to all, as Nkonkobe is made up of many small villages with no tax base; and
- Large municipalities in South Africa are more expensive to run and their staff compliments increase after amalgamation and never decrease.
Doing away with one municipality in a poor rural region by collapsing it into a neighbouring municipality is likely to do little to dent entrenched poverty and poor service if it is simply incorporated into a teetering, only marginally viable neighbour such as Nkonkobe. The reality of deeply entrenched poverty in a region means enlarging municipalities in rural areas will only act to de-stabilise relatively more stable municipalities and ultimately the region as a whole.
Realistically, unless national government provides long-term additional grant funding for such incorporated areas (a big ask in fiscally strained times), amalgamation may result in the further marginalisation and neglect of already poor urban, peri-urban and rural communities. It will certainly not assist in creating one larger, more financially viable municipality.
The people of Nxuba deserve a quality local government that will deliver basic services, create jobs and fight poverty, crime and corruption.
The DA will continue fighting for communities where good governance is based on our principles of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all.