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Amalgamation no silver bullet for struggling municipalities

Skills concentrated in 27 municipalities out of 257.

Some municipalities are not sustainable due to socio-economic conditions in the area in which they are located and simply amalgamating them with other municipalities may not solve their problems.

Government must fundamentally assess the funding model, says Jane Thupana, chairperson of the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB).

Thupana told journalists at a media briefing hosted by the National Press Club that 70-80% of the population in municipalities, especially those located in the former homelands, are dependent on social grants.

She said the economic infrastructure in those areas is weak and due to the municipality’s inability to generate revenue, it becomes an amalgamation candidate.

However, the problem does not necessarily originate in the municipality itself and amalgamating it with another municipality may not be the right way to solve the issue if the funding model is in fact flawed, she said.

She said even where amalgamations seem to be the right way to go, demarcation is only one factor that determines the success of the new entity. The MDB has no part in the institutional arrangements of the new entity and this, together with factors such as governance, could affect the outcome.

She said former minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Pravin Gordhan submitted a list of 34 struggling municipalities to the MDB to be amalgamated with stronger entities. The board however approved only 12 of those as appropriate candidates.

Thupana said early results from a capacity assessment of all municipalities show that professional and executive skills are concentrated in the Western Cape and Gauteng. The greatest weakness in this regard is found in Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga, and to a lesser extent in the Eastern Cape.

High turnover

This includes technical skills needed for service delivery as well as financial management skills at the level of municipal manager and chief financial officer. The turnover in these positions is high, she said.

The auditor-general’s findings also reflect this uneven spread of skills in the annual audit outcomes, Thupana said.

MDB CEO Sigidi Muthotho said around 70% of the skills located in municipalities are concentrated in only 27 municipalities out of 257. These are the 19 larger ‘secondary’ cities and the metros.

The MDB will publish an assessment report for every individual municipality in March.

Thupana said South Africa is unique in Africa and one of few countries in the world where municipal boundaries are determined by an independent institution. In countries like the United States this is a function of government.

She said the formula for determining the number of councillors per municipality is prescribed by law and that the member of the executive committee (MEC) responsible for local government in every province determines the exact number according to the formula. The MEC is allowed to deviate by 10%.

Politicians do not however always appreciate that an increase in the number of councillors means the number of wards will also be increased. It is then the task of the MDB to determine the borders of the new and affected wards.

More wards, more demands

More wards means the demand for resources also increases and a change in ward boundaries is disruptive to service delivery, which is mostly ward-based, Thupana said. She used the example of someone who falls off the waiting list for housing after being on it for several years because the delimitation places them in a new ward.

This could lead to dissatisfaction and protest action, and affected persons wrongly blaming the MDB, she said.

The MDB has as a result started to work with politicians proactively to prevent unintended consequences. It does projections and alerts them to the possible outcome of decisions affecting the number of councillors, Thupana said.

Thupana also said the MDB has no mandate to change provincial borders. This is done by parliament and requires a change in the Constitution. Only after such a decision has been taken is the MDB tasked with determining the ward and municipal boundaries to give effect to the change in provincial borders. Communities don’t understand this and try to put pressure on the MDB if they are unhappy with the province their municipality is located in.

She said the MDB works closely with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and, in the run-up to the elections in May this year, alerts it to possible protest action related to border disputes.

Read: Municipalities just don’t listen – Auditor-General

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Amalgamation just saddles rate payers with the ever increasing debt of non-payers. The unwillingness of the ANC regime to take action against non-payment of rates/taxes is whats killing municipalities; that and the profligate lifestyles of their corrupt cadres.

Not much hope for country when ANC consistently fail to face reality.

I have little sympathies with struggling municipalities.

Their focus should be on continued successful TRANSFORMATION. That has largely been achieved across the country, and good so.
So what is the problem??

With a bigger municipality, the first thing that happens is a new round of job evaluations, which leads to promotions and raises for everybody. This is just a nice way of arranging job grade creep, like what happened with the creation of metropoles. We already have hundreds of deployed cadres sitting around in municipal halls doing nothing. Perhaps we should concentrate on service delivery, rather that tinkering with organizational structures.

Anybody with half a brain knows that the ANC has failed, that cadre deployment has failed and that BEE is a failure. However, the ANC electorate will continue voting for them because the idea of voting for any other party is simply “too ghastly to contemplate” especially not for the DA since the DA is seen as a “white party”. For them to think that white people will ever have any sort of influence in government again must be avoided at all costs even if it is to their own detriment. If one is so hell-bent on ensuring that another race is kept out of positions of power, then you really have to ask who the real racists in this country are.

More municipalities means more positions for party cadres. But where are these municipalities going to find all those municipal engineers, technicians, artisans? Every one from my graduation class, except me, has left the country.

First get rid of all the friends and family that has been hired to loot the state!!!

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