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Deputy finance minister welcomes ruling opening way for intervention in municipalities

David Masondo says Lekwa municipality likely not the last to be taken to court.
David Masondo says 163 municipalities are in financial distress. Image: Supplied

Deputy finance minister David Masondo has hailed the high court order compelling the national government to intervene in an ongoing financial and service delivery crisis in the Lekwa Local Municipality as a victory.

Masondo, in an address to the ex-municipal council of Lekwa municipality, said the Mpumalanga-based council would not be the last to have a court give the national government the right to intervene at a local level.

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“While this may be the first order of this kind to be handed down to national government, I am confident that it will not be the last.

“The events in this municipality will in all likelihood blaze a trail for other communities that have had their fair share of poor service delivery and general municipal ineptness.”

On May 12, cabinet dissolved the Lekwa municipality, meaning the salaries for councillors will be paid until the end of May 2021. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has ordered a stand-over of the bi-elections pending the local government elections later this year.

Last straw

The Pretoria High Court forced the government to intervene after Astral Foods took legal action because it could not get regular access to clean water and electricity from the council.

The situation was so bad for Astral that in June 2019 it took the unprecedented step of warning shareholders that up to 40% of its production was under threat because of the water issue.

Read: Dysfunctional municipality chokes Astral

Masondo, who runs Operation Vulindlela, a joint project between the treasury and the presidency to push through economic reforms, says the national government is not blind to the challenges when it comes to dealing with problem municipalities.

“Lekwa is not the only municipality to have failed in terms of the constitutional and developmental mandate assigned to local government.

“Regrettably, 25 years into a new local government dispensation, after the introduction of progressive and enabling municipal legislation, extensive capacity-building efforts and increased grant allocations, there are 39 other municipalities in a situation as critical as Lekwa.

“There are also 163 municipalities in financial distress and 108 municipalities that have passed an unfunded budget in [the] 2020/21 financial year.”

Read:

Masondo says that while it was unfortunate that government had to be ordered by the high court to intervene, as it “goes against the very essence of our cooperative intergovernmental system”, it did provide an opening to do something different.

“But in any crisis, there are also opportunities. Opportunities to redefine what is acceptable and what is not, opportunities to remind ourselves of our duty to serve, opportunities that force us to rethink our approach.”

This new approach has seen appointment of an administrator, Johann Mettler, to “fulfil the legislative and executive functions of the council”.

Mettler is a lawyer by profession and has extensive local government policy and regulatory experience. He is also a former municipal manager at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and “played an instrumental role as the administrator in the intervention at Msunduzi Municipality in 2009”.

“Mr Mettler has been conferred with the necessary authority by the minister of finance to ensure a smooth and swift recovery in Lekwa,” said Masondo, adding that full cooperation will be given to Mettler in this assignment.

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It will be most interesting to see what happens with Lekwa. The rot in this municipality is deep and the only way to get it right is to start with the officials that do the work. Keep the good ones and fire the bad ones.

There is a fundamental flaw in what Masondo says. One the one hand there is continued cadre deployment with all it’s results and on the other hand the central government is going to “intervene”. They policy of cadre deployment is at the root of the problem, incompetent people in positions of authority.

Secondly, if there is central control why do we need local officials at all? Why are we paying local officials who cannot deliver salaries at all?

So either competent people are appointed at municpal level or any “intervention” is doomed to failure. You can’t have it both ways.

agreed – I’m confused, it seems like it’s one hand cutting off the other from the same body?

This Deputy Minister’s reaction is really ridiculous. The Constitution and the existing municipal acts make provision for provincial and national government to intervene. In fact, it instructs these levels of government to step in and act when a municipality fails. They should have done this years ago, but they rather protected their incompetent cadres. Now that the court have instructed the government to do what they were supposed to do in the first place, the Deputy Minister calls it a victory. Does this guy not even know the acts that he and his fellow cabinet members are supposed to implement? How incompetent can you get?

While there is central authority, it may not be as beneficial as a decentralised system provided it is run by committed and competent individuals with integrity.
The use of local officials can be sound as it enables faster decision making due to not having to consult central authority/seek their approval, local officials have (or are supposed to) have more knowledge of the municipality as they are on the ground(involved on a daily basis) compared to those at central offices so they understand it better and will usually know what to do. That is just amongst other benefits. However, that system has its flaws and if not implemented well, it could be catastrophic, I guess that was the case in the Lekwa Municipality.

Every time I read about stories of failure like this. I always think about William Shockley’s study if it was true or not about my kind. If everything was implemented well, there would be no need of the involvement of central government.

Ja no well fine — It remains to be seen if the Government can do any better.

This is actually an intervention with the ANC, noy just in municipalities.

The ANC cannot run a spaza shop, let alo e a municipality and the ANC cannot do anything without corruption or a twisted ideological slant, which inevitably means a loss of vast quantities of money and a destruction of the economy.

And note that Masondo has not said anything remotely meaningful. Just the usual ANC gibberish.

This is the lunacy of our modern-day democracy. The ANC has neither the best policies nor the best record of implementations. It only has the most votes. Apparently, that is all that matters while everything else around us implodes and goes to pieces. Do you really think those Lekwa municipality councillors are going to take this laying down? They got paid good money and now it’s all gone. Johann Mettler better hire a team of bodyguards for himself and his family because I suspect things are about to get ugly…

The “logic” is for a court to have to tell national government to do their job??? Something they should be doing anyway???

Whahahahaaaa!!! No wonder its what it is!!

Where do they get all these “people”???

It’s actually laughable

The very people who caused this mess, are the people chosen to fix it

Good luck peeps

ANC cadre hails court’s revolutionary decision to force ANC to do its job.

There are pockets of excellence. David Masondo is one of those cadres that needs to cloned and sent to every other dysfunctional municipalities.

Of course. The pocket of excellence who used the Hawks to arrest and harass a woman he impregnated.

Even the ANC integrity commission recommended that he steps down.

The court is going in the wrong direction if it wants people to benefit from better service delivery. The court should protect citizens against the collectivist mindset, and not support increasing centralized planning. The court should move in the opposite direction. Capable individuals and businesses in the local community should have the right to provide services to their community. Services should be privatized, not nationalized.

Nationalization and central planning will only speed up the rot and decay. The national government is responsible for the shameful degradation of the few international properties of the Dept of Foreign Affairs. What will equip the same negligent and incompetent cadres to manage local municipalities?

Centralization will only put the looting opportunities in the hands of a smaller group of clueless and careless politically connected cadres who are higher up in the Central Planning hierarchy. It will speed up the rot ad decay, not prevent it. We need a judge who understands how accurately basic political economics describes and predicts human behavior.

It is all about buying time for the cabal to win the next election and stay in power a little longer to continue looting the citizens of this country. Take Msunduzi for example, Johan Mettler came in fixed the problem then handed it back with several million positive cash flow. Now they are back under administration again but in an even worse financial position. So what was the point?

A power grab by national government. Nothing more.

Masondo rhymes with Zondo, same useless waste of tax money and time
BLAH BLAH BLAH

So they sat and watched, (time to loot more) and now they think they can do something.

These clowns are soooo clever they have destroyed the papertrail, not intentionally, but is is just a result of their incompetence that plays into their hands. So nothing will be traceable.

Gotta love how they now victoriously claim they are making progress when the rot and collapse happened on their watch. The fact is that Treasury, Cooperative Governance and the Presidency stood by and watched over the course of years as these councils were mismanaged into the ground. And they did mostly nothing.

To hail this court decision as opening the way for national government to intervene in failing municipalities shows ignorance on several fronts. Section 100 of the Constitution gives National Government the right to intervene when Provincial Government does not perform. Section 139 gives that same right to Provincial Governmemt to intervene in failing municipalities. So, if National Government Ministers becomes aware of poor performimg municipalities, they have all the legal avenues to act through the Provincial Government. Section 139 of the Municipal Finance Management Act and Chapter 10 of the Municipal Structures Act elaborate on the steps to be taken. The only court order necessary was to tell National and Provincial Governments to go and do their jobs. They are as guilty of neglecting their duties as the failing municipalities.

The solution for all municipalities facing financial problems. Having a compulsory number of people in the books who are not entitled on any form of B.E.

More cadres deployed for their time to eat?

End of comments.

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