NCOP debate on KZN municipalities

Hon P.N Msimango, MPL
KZN Legislature, Pietermaritzburg

 

Hon Speaker,

The IFP believes in good governance and that is why it commends and fully supported the NCOP decision to conduct oversight visits to the Mpofana and Zululand District Municipalities respectively.

We commend this because good governance means that support must be provided to municipalities irrespective of which party governs those municipalities. The National Council of Provinces is mandated by Section 139 (2)(c) to, review the intervention regularly and may make any appropriate recommendation to the provincial executive while the intervention continues.

Although, we commend such initiatives but as the IFP we notice the motives of the ruling party to only focus on IFP led municipalities. This is the strategy to ensure that all IFP led municipalities are seen as dysfunctional thereafter place them under administration. We have not heard any word even from the KZN MEC of Cogta, Sipho Hlomuka and NCOP on what they intend to do about the dysfunctionality of uMkhanyakude District, uGu, Newcastle, uMsunduzi, eThekwini Metro and many others. If the ruling party and NCOP were serious about good governance it should have also visited these municipalities which have been dysfunctional for a long time. UMsunduzi and eThekwini should have been placed at the top of the list given their importance into the economy of this province, both are in shambles but instead their fiascos are being swept under the carpet because they are ANC led, Hon Speaker. We challenge the NCOP to visit these municipalities as a matter of urgency. The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development led by example by conducting oversight to all municipalities regardless of political leadership. It undertook an oversight visit to four Districts; Umkhanyakude, Zululand, uMzinyathi and uMgungundlovu District Municipalities from 26-30 August 2019.

During the meeting at the Zululand District Municipality I was very pleased to note that the Zululand District Municipality is a top performer amongst all the municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. It has excelled in implementing the Expanded Public Works Programme which has created jobs for local communities and in spending the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG). Above that the Zululand District Municipality has R34 million in investment. It is perplexing that lies were peddled about the Zululand District Municipality that it is in shambles but what we as the Members who visited this municipality observed, is the opposite of what has been said. Of course, we do not dispute that there is a lot that still needs to be done but, truth must be told because what we observed there tells a different story about the Zululand District Municipality.

Moreover, the IFP says all municipalities must be provided with necessary support and resources they need in order to fulfil their constitutional mandates. Key to progress in municipalities is the involvement of citizens in decision making, political stability, ability to utilise funding appropriately without corruption and fraud. The Department of COGTA together with local leadership should serve citizens of this province with integrity without playing dirty political tactics when providing resources, support and intervention. This would help in early identification of issues and service failures. Auditor-General indicated that majority of municipalities in this province performed miserably bad as their audit reports regressed and intervention is required to most municipalities. Financial Health, supply chain management, consequence management to curb irregular and wasteful expenditure are needed. We therefore call upon an unbiased integrated approach that will help all the struggling municipalities in this province and which will put the citizens first at all times.

On the issues of Municipal Debts which are crippling our municipalities, the IFP holds the view that the local government should implement stringent strategies that will be able to collect all the money that is due from each municipality. Debt is the result of many factors such as unemployment; poverty; a poor revenue base; poor revenue collection; insufficient skills; tariffs that do not cover the full cost of services; high interest rates, charges and penalties; and ageing infrastructure, etc. We often hear of how much municipalities are in debt. But there is another side of the coin. Municipalities themselves are owed money, often by consumers and institutions. For any business entity, the management of debtors or accounts receivable is of paramount importance in order to warrant solid cash flows. Municipalities are no exception, even though they are not businesses per se. For them, better management of debtors can help them deliver services to their residents.

The government should educate the citizens that all those who consume services should pay for them. This point should be emphasised at all times. Only the indigent and those who are genuinely poor should be exempted and supported through the provision of free basic services. Debt collection should be pursued with vigour and passion especially against the well-to-do individuals as well as corporate and related institutions.

We should all know that debt is spiralling out of control, if this is not addressed, it is bound to do KZN a great harm. Similarly, withholding the equitable share can be equally bad and harmful.

The national and provincial departments which owe municipalities should urgently make a commitment to paying all their outstanding debts to municipalities. There must be a sense that all spheres of government are treated with a sense of justice and equity.

Everything possible should be done to avoid a perception that some government departments and officials are a law unto themselves and can do as they please when interacting with communities.

We have seen a number of service delivery protests in the Province, it becomes critically important that the Department of COGTA establishes a visible rapid response unit that responds and deals proactively with water and sanitation related challenges before they reach protest stages. KwaZulu-Natal residents must be able to call a responsive toll-free number to report leakages, no water supply, vandalism and theft of our infrastructure.

I thank you