Opinion Piece by Mergan K. Chetty
DA NCOP CoGTA Spokesperson:
Municipalities put under administration should take Constitutional will and not Political will!
Although the DA welcomes the long overdue decision by the KwaZulu Natal MEC for CoGTA Hon. Nomusa Dube-Ncube to dissolve the Mtubatuba municipal council, we cannot help but question the timing of the MEC’s decision to invoke section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution. The municipality is urgently in need of effective management to improve service delivery and correct budgetary irregularities, but it appears that the ANC has invoked this provision to maintain political control of the municipality.
When Mtubatuba’s council was under ANC control, the MEC was willing to allow for the section 139(1)(b) intervention initiated in September 2012 – a less serious form of intervention – to be extended until March 2015. However, fifteen days after the ANC/NFP coalition disintegrated on 30 January 2015 and only after the balance of power shifted to the IFP, did the KZN provincial executive committee decide to invoke section 139(1)(c), allowing them to completely dissolve the municipal council.
The DA acknowledges that section 139(1)(c) should only be used in cases where it is clear that the dissolution of the council is the only option to place a dysfunctional municipality on a stable footing, but the dysfunction in Mtubatuba has been apparent since 2012. If the intervention had been undertaken when the first signs of failure emerged it would have reversed the harm done by incessant service delivery breakdowns; been less costly and, with good leadership, been more effective.
The MEC’s failure to act and act decisively, amplifies the concerns raised in the 4th Parliament’s Legacy Report that, “interventions are usually made far too late, when a municipality is about to collapse.” The MEC has plunged Mtubatuba even further into a state of dysfunction by interfering politically to maintain ANC power and impose her decisions.
It is clear that after the provincial government took over certain competencies from the municipality in 2012 in terms of section 139(1) (b) the lives of Mtubatuba’s people have still not changed for the better. By the mayor’s own admission the 175 000 residents of Mtubatuba still do not have access to basic water. This situation is typical of the ANC’s inability to grasp the need for timeous intervention in troubled municipalities and reflects the ruling party’s lack of commitment to service delivery and improving the lives of the people of KZN.
In Wednesday’s National Council of Provinces Select Committee meeting, where Parliament has the opportunity to thoroughly scrutinise the reasons for section 139 interventions, the MEC’s report indicated that the national minister of CoGTA, Pravin Gordhan, fast-tracked the 139(1)(c) intervention even before it came to the NCOP.
Unlike the DA, the ANC clearly does not respect the will of the electorate. Section 139(1)(c) should only be invoked when it is justified by exceptional circumstances and not only when exceptional circumstances are accompanied by the loss of political power.
Mtubatuba as in the case of Mooi Mpofana local municipality is the second municipality in KZN to be placed under section 139 (1)(c) administration within six months. As the case of Mooi Mpofana, allegations of mismanagement, corruption, infighting and factionalism due to deployed cadres took the focus away from service delivery and the well-being of the community.
The ANC continues to show the residences and ratepayers that the fight for lucrative positions is more important than the interest of the people.
The growing number of KZN municipalities under provincial administration is proof of the devastating consequences of cadre deployment by the majority party. The reality is that failed cadres are redeployed to other spheres of government, whilst the citizens of the country continue to pay for their incompetence. We implore the MEC to guarantee the residents of Mtubatuba that none of the current ANC councillors will be brought back, as happened in the recent elections held in Mooi Mpofana.
The discrepancies between the accounts of the newly elected political leadership of Mtubatuba, the former administrator and the MEC about what is actually going on in the municipality, should raise questions surrounding the political motives behind the dissolution of the council.
With the number of failed municipalities increasing in KZN it is clear that the CoGTA MEC does not have the capacity or competency to run her department. The DA will continue to keep a watchful eye on how the municipalities under administration are managed.
It is time for the people of KZN to make their voices heard and vote for good governance by competent individuals who, unlike ANC deployees, will uphold the Constitution.