Honourable Chairperson, it is often said that local government is at the coal face of government service delivery. This is absolutely true since service delivery or the lack thereof touches the lives of our people on a daily basis in a very real manner. The Inkatha Freedom Party understands this very well since we have vast experience at all three levels of government and here in KwaZulu-Natal we possess institutional knowledge on local government that has been acquired over many decades.
The IFP acknowledges the budget allocation of R1.585billion to COGTA and we hope that this money will be used to achieve the strategic objectives of the department and not those of the ANC. I say this because over the years we have seen this department becoming another wing of the ANC and that it forgets its legal mandate while it gets unnecessarily embroiled in municipal leadership issues.
I say this against the background of what has happened at the Nquthu Municipality after the 2016 local government elections. Tracing the course of events it became evident that the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs was playing for time so that she will be able to call for new elections in the Nquthu Municipality. She pursued this agenda under direction from her political masters and did so at the expense of political oversight and good governance in Nquthu. This is a blatant abuse of authority to secure ANC hegemony in this municipality with a total disregard for effective service delivery. The people of Nquthu are aware of the MECs hidden agenda and they will not be fooled. The voters spoke through the ballot box in August 2016 but their democratic rights were violated by the MECs actions.
For over eight months the Nqutu Municipality has been without a properly elected council. Due to threats and intimidation of councillors, COGTA decided not to hold meetings in Nqutu and decided at one point to move it to the Pietermaritzburg City Hall and to appoint its own administrator, Mr Zamo Mkhize to oversee the process. The meeting proceeded well until the name of the IFP candidate for the position of Speaker was proposed and seconded. Then ANC members from Pietermaritzburg barged into the hall singing and chanting ANC slogans. Their actions disrupted the entire process but the MEC, as a leader in the ANC and as the political head of COGTA did not speak out against this sort of behaviour from ANC members.
This sort of blatant abuse of authority cannot be tolerated and COGTA needs to remain neutral in the conduct of its mandate.
Honourable Chairperson, the IFP notes that on 08 March this year the Hon Premier held an Imbizo in Nquthu. We have learnt that tomorrow the entire KZN Cabinet will again descend on Nquthu. It is blatantly obvious that these visits to Nquthu at such short intervals are aimed at garnering votes for the ANC candidates. The MEC, in her response today must tell this House if this Cabinet visit to Nquthu was on the annual programme of the Hon Premier, how much money was budgeted for this visit, will resources such as food parcels, wheelchairs, walking sticks, etc be used to bribe people to vote for the ANC candidates. Again the ANC finds ways of using public funds to campaign. The people of Nquthu are not blind. They are able to see through these shenanigans and they will not be fooled. The voters are intelligent and they will not be misled into thinking that this is a caring government just because of these visits. COGTA proved to the people of Nquthu that it does not care about their well- being when it ensured that the municipality was without a council for over eight months. Now suddenly because there is this by-election, the entire Cabinet is concerned about what the needs of the people of Nquthu are. If COGTA and the Hon Premier were indeed concerned about the needs of the people, surely they would have known that there was a need for a functional municipal council that will cater for the needs of the people. Instead what COGTA did, under directive of the ANC, was to ensure that more money is wasted in running these by-elections in every ward in Nquthu. The IFP is confident that come 24 May the people of Nquthu will have an IFP-led council in place.
Honourable Chairperson, the IFP is pleased to note that the department is tasked with administering the remuneration of Izinduna and we hope that this will be done in line with the Presidential proclamations and that there will not be any mismanagement in this regard. The finalisation of this issue has been long outstanding and that was not fair to Izinduna across our province.
Honourable Chairperson, As the IFP we are very concerned that the Ministerial Houses in Ulundi are being allocated by ANC officials to known ANC members. This is an abuse of authority by ANC officials and the Honourable MEC needs to look into this matter. This abuse also extends into the Ulundi Municipality where the Mayor and the Municipal Manager were charged by the National Department of Public Works for non-payment of the electricity account by the departments after they has switched off the electricity to those departments. This matter is now in court. It is strange that when the Mayor and the MM act in the interest of the Municipality, they get charged by the Department. Is this because it is an IFP-led municipality.
The IFP is extremely concerned about the number of municipal officials who have been accused of some acts of fraud at various municipalities. I am reminded of the municipal manager at the Umdoni Municipality who is on precautionary suspension due to allegations of discrepancies in the Small Town Rehabilitation Programme. It is alleged that the municipal manager has not produced tender documents and invoice for the R6million being part of the R12million that was allocated by COGTA in the 2015/2016 financial year. In spite of numerous requests for him to do so, he has failed to respond. This is the kind of failure to account that must never be tolerated at our municipalities. Officials must realise that they are governed by regulations and they are compelled to comply or face the consequences.
At Ingwe Municipality which is part of the Harry Gwala District Municipality, two ward councillors were arrested by the Hawks Anti-Corruption Task Team for allegedly receiving social grants from SASSA illegally. It is alleged that almost R35 000 was paid out to councillors Bongekile Dlamini and Zamambo Mkhize
As if this is not bad enough, the former Mayor of Ingwe Local Municipality, Nomagugu Luzulane and former Municipal Manager, Nthabiseng Brown appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court in April this year on charges of fraud and corruption related to the misuse of municipality funds. Brown was further charged for fraud after she allegedly submitted a false qualification.
Honourable Chairperson, this is the kind of corruption that the Department needs to root out and set an example for other public officials who seek to engage in corrupt activities. As a government we cannot allow corruption of this nature to erode good governance and tarnish the image of government. People are loosing faith in government because they see public officials defrauding the state of resources that are meant to improve their lives.
This is why we witnessed protests that in Eshowe recently that went on for more than two weeks. The protesters are angry about the unfulfilled promises made by the mayor of Umlalazi. There are allegations of large scale corruption surrounding the R11 million road construction contract that was awarded but the contractor has since abandoned the project after being paid up front. Communities do not protest without good reason. People are now fed up with unfulfilled promises of government and corruption on the part of public servants.
Honourable Chairperson, we are aware that in its 2016/2017 Financial Review, this department stated that it had drafted and circulated a Code of Conduct for councillors. This Code of Conduct is to provide support with regard to compliance with local government legislation. From our assessment of the performance of many municipalities in the province, it is obvious that councillors are either not aware of the Code of Conduct or that they are showing a total disregard for legislation. COGTA needs to perform an audit of the performance of all councillors and ensure that those who step out of line face severe repercussions in their personal capacities.
Honourable Chairperson, the IFP expresses its concern that in Programme 3 there has been a scaling down on the construction and rehabilitation of houses for Amakhosi and community service centres. Whilst we understand that there are budget constraints, we should not compromise on service delivery but should rather look at creative ways of ensuring that we cater for the needs of Amakhosi and rural communities where services are needed.
I thank You