the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition,
the Hon. MEC, Amakhosi present,
Hon. Members of this august House and honoured guests,
HOD and Senior Managers present.
I’m grateful to Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe for affording me an opportunity to participate in this important debate.
Hon. Chairperson, we began this year, 2022, on a very sour note when we saw the House of Democracy, our Parliament, in flames. This happened after a very difficult year where the economy of our country was dealt a devastating blow by the effects of lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As if this was not enough, our Province and the Gauteng Province faced civil unrest and looting that cost our economy an estimated R50 billion. This was followed by floods that ravaged some parts of our Province in April of this year, claiming lives and collapsing infrastructure.
It is so painful that more than 400 lives were lost and more than 60 people are unaccounted for in this Province. The people of our Province were dealt a serious blow, the infrastructure was destroyed, they lost their possessions for which they had laboured for many years, not to mention the loss of precious lives. The IFP passes its condolences to all those who lost their loved ones through these floods. Sihlalo ohloniphekile, iQembu leNkatha lizwakalisa okukhulu ukudumala ngokulahleka kwemiphefumulo engaka ngenxa yezikhukhula futhi sikanye nalabo ngemiphefumulo abangakabatholi namanje abathandiweyo babo.iQembu leNkatha Yenkululeko lahambela izindawo ezahlukene eThekwini namaphethelo ukuyobona umonakalo owenzekile labuye lalekelela ngezinsiza ezidingwa yilabo abalahlekelwe ngalesikhathi esinzima iSifundazwe sakithi esibhekene naso. I’m happy that the Hon. MEC requested that we observe a moment of silence when he began with his speech.
This brings me to enquire from you, Hon. MEC, whether Disaster Management Centres within our Province are capable enough to mitigate the effects of this disaster because according to experiences of the people on the ground, the Disaster Management Centres where the recent floods were experienced, failed them. The people we spoke to expressed their concerns to us when we met them that in some areas affected, it took a long time for any official or assistance to reach them, after they had been promised assistance.
We need to look closer at this issue of readiness in order to ascertain whether Disaster Management Centres in our Province are properly equipped and that when they issue early warnings for an impending disaster that may occur, such warnings reach the residents of our Province on time and that they are assisted to respond quickly, before disaster strikes.
Hon. Chairperson, the IFP notes the R1.8 billion budget allocated to this Department. It is a matter of concern that an amount R793.7 million of this budget goes to compensation of employees, which equals 65% of the whole budget, leaving about R400 million allocation for service delivery.
1. EPWP GRANT
The IFP shares concerns expressed by the Portfolio Committee regarding the decline of the EPWP Grant over the years, to a mere R1.993 million for this financial year. This Grant assists in mitigating the high rate of employment in our c ountry and our Province.
We note that an amount of R78 million in this budget will be transferred to Local Government; R11.2 million for Corridor Development for the construction of trading stalls; R45.8 million for the rehabilitation of small towns; R16 million for Disaster Management Centres in Amajuba and uMzinyathi Districts.
The IFP notes that an amount of R396 million towards the payment of salaries to izinduna. We are eager to know what happened at the meeting which the HOD, Mr Tubane, reported at the Portfolio Committee meeting was going to take place on 20 April 2021 with the national sphere to discuss back-pay to izinduna and the payment of Traditional Council Secretaries. The IFP will continue to place on record its concerns that the stipends paid to Traditional Council Secretaries are shameful and that something needs to be done by the Department to increase it. In fact, it is shameful that Traditional Council Secretaries have been paid a stipend of R1 600 by the Department since 2012. We wish that you, Hon. MEC could discuss the plight of Traditional Council Secretaries when you meet with Amakhosi and give them an assurance that the matter of their Secretaries will receive your attention.
The IFP notes that an amount of R27 million has been allocated towards implementing infrastructure in Traditional Administrative Centres.
The IFP wishes to submit in this debate that the participation of the Amakhosi in Municipal Councils as the Hon. MEC said remains hollow if Amakhosi do not have powers to vote in those Municipalities. We hope this matter will be addressed during our lifetime.
3. CLIMATE CHANGE
The latest floods have made it clear that in planning processes within Municipalities and within the Province itself, challenges brought about by climate change must be confronted head-on. Any delay in taking this into account will see our Province having to face dire consequences going forward because climate change imperatives must be factored into all planning processes.
It is also important to establish whether Local Municipalities do fulfil their legislative obligations towards preparing to face disasters. Disaster Management should not only be left to District Municipalities, Local Municipalities must have a role to play in preparing to mitigate the effects of disasters as well.
4. INTERVENTIONS IN MUNICIPALITIES
The IFP remains concerned about the Interventions by the Department in Municipalities within this Province. There are Municipalities that are under administration for a long time – three years and more – and we wonder whether the purpose is served by these Interventions, or if it is a matter of those appointed as Administrators failing to turn around Municipalities within a reasonable time. Interventions should not be a permanent feature of the operations of Municipalities. Properly qualified Administrators would, within a reasonable time, turn Municipalities around, it is therefore important to look closely at Administrators that take too long to turn Municipalities around, as to whether they have what it takes to turn the Municipalities they were deployed to around.
Hon. MEC, this brings me to the latest judgments by the High Court relating to Mtubatuba Municipality’s Inaugural Meeting and the Zululand District Municipality’s Forensic Investigation, which was commissioned by this Department. It is known by all and sundry now that the Department lost these two cases in the High Court. It is surprising and actually embarrassing that when the Inaugural Council Meeting was held in Mtubatuba last year, this Department was represented but the law was flouted without the departmental representative intervening to avoid an illegal act from occurring. The IFP had to take the matter to the High Court to challenge what happened at this Meeting. The High Court ruled in favour of the IFP on this matter, which resulted in the reconstitution of uMkhanyakude District Municipality recently. On the 6th of May 2022, the High Court delivered another judgment that was an embarrassment to this Department, in the matter of the Forensic Report compiled by Mdledle Inc. in Zululand District Municipality.
The Mayor of this Municipality had always maintained that an injustice had occurred in the manner the investigation was conducted in that the investigators did not interview him and proceeded to make a finding against him. The PMB High Court in its finding under the topic “Failure to comply with the requirements of procedural fairness”, vindicated the Mayor of Zululand District Municipality. This begs the question, why was this obvious error on the part of the investigators not found and even worse, when the Mayor protested, nobody listened within the Department. The IFP wonders how much the Department had to pay the lawyers for the costs, which could have been avoided had due diligence been conducted in the Mtubatuba Municipality matter and the Zululand District Municipality matter. The judgment of the PMB High Court issued, on the 6th May 2022 stated as follows: “In the circumstances I make the following order…The first respondent is to pay the costs of the application”. The first respondent is the Department of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs which you lead, Hon. MEC.
5. EMPLOYEE FACING CORRUPTION CHARGES
Hon. MEC, the IFP wishes to know from you whether it is true that this Department has employed an official as a Director of SCM who is attending a court case as we speak in the Eastern Cape Province. This employee of COGTA is among those who were implicated in corruption, which took place in the Eastern Cape Province during the funeral of the late former President Mandela.
If this is true, we as the IFP register our deep concern that an employee who is facing charges of corruption was employed by this Department.
6. LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The IFP wishes to encourage the Department that as it conducts oversight over Municipalities within this Province that it ensures that Municipalities embark upon local development programmes in order to grow local economies, which will in turn yield positive results through making a dent in the unemployment challenges our country is facing and also enable residents of Municipalities within our Province to be able to pay Municipalities for the services that Municipalities render. It is pleasing to note that the Hon. MEC alluded to this matter.
7. BACK TO BASICS PROGRAMME
Hon. MEC, this Department must ensure that the Back-to-Basics Programme is implemented in all Municipalities within our Province. Residents of many Municipalities continue to complain about potholes, poor water supply in many of the rural parts of our Province, continued interruptions of electricity supply, refuse not being removed, lights not working in many urban towns, and dump sites being in an unpalatable state. These are the basic local government service delivery imperatives, which must be perfected in all Municipalities within our Province so that we can look at what can be done beyond these functions, after the basics are delivered by all Municipalities within our Province, without fail.
8. ASSASSINATIONS OF AMAKHOSI, IZINDUNA AND COUNCILLORS
Hon. MEC, the IFP is deeply concerned about the recent assassinations of Amakhosi, izinduna and Councillors within our Province. This is a very serious matter, which requires focused attention by all authorities to put a stop to this scourge.
The people that are being assassinated provide leadership to the people of our Province in their respective capacities, and when they are assassinated, our Province is robbed of leadership skills, which are needed to improve the quality of lives of people who reside in this Province. The worrying part is that there are too few instances of arrests of those who commit these heinous crimes. They continue to kill knowing full-well that they will not be arrested. We note that the MEC reported that 43 cases have been opened since 2012 and 25 people have been arrested. We to know, how many convictions have been achieved? We support the call by the Hon. MEC that communities must assist the police with information in order to apprehend these people.
9. PROVISION OF ELECTRICITY BY ESKOM
Hon. MEC, the IFP is concerned about the performance of Eskom in areas which are serviced by it. This is outside the loadshedding that Eskom implements from time to time. We don’t know how far this matter has been handled by the Department, since it was raised in the Portfolio Committee. The unreliable electricity supply has a negative impact on service delivery, as we all know.
10. CLEAN AUDITS
The IFP expresses a wish that there will come a time in our Province where it will be a norm for all structures of government – the National, Provincial and Local spheres – to utilise the financial resources they are entrusted with prudently. We express a concern that the Operation Clean Audit campaign, which was talked about in past years, is taking too long to yield the desired results. We are pleased to hear the Hon. MEC saying more needs to be done in this area. We appreciate, as the Hon .MEC has said this morning, that this Department obtained a clean audit. This must be a matter of course and we hope the Department will continue obtaining clean audits in years to come.
We will continue to exercise our role over the Department, together with other Parties represented in this House, in order to ensure the aspirations of the citizens of our Province, and that they get the services that they deserve.
The IFP supports the Budget.
Thank you, Hon. Chairperson.