The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordhan, has seen fit to “solve” the problem of the bankrupt Ikwezi municipality (Jansenville and Klipplaat) by proposing to redraw the boundaries to create a single large municipality comprising the current Baviaans, Camdeboo and Ikwezi municipalities. The DA will petition the Municipal Demarcation Board not to accede to this proposal and to retain Ikwezi in its current geographical form.
The dysfunctionality of Ikwezi can be placed directly at the door of incompetent ANC cadres. Instead of them being held accountable, and vigorous action being taken to restore the functionality of the municipality, its current woes might now become a burden to thousands more people. The service delivery offered to the Ikwezi populace is likely to be seriously negatively affected through this proposed action.
On 15 July 2014, the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs tabled a report to the Ikwezi Council, on behalf of their MEC, Fikile Xasa.
The report details the findings of an investigation by a commission of enquiry into financial and administrative mismanagement in the Ikwezi Municipality. The findings are damning.
Ikwezi’s municipal council was instructed to take action to rectify the many failings, and was required to have done so by 15 August 2014.
Not unsurprisingly, the council has failed to comply with the instruction. Not one of the deadlines prescribed by the MEC have been met.
The council session at which the report was presented was a closed one, and the report was thus considered confidential. However, given the fact that seven months (of inaction) have passed, it is understandable that the report has been leaked. Now that the community is aware of the findings of the investigation, they are under an obligation (legally and morally) to take action. As a public representative who has Ikwezi municipality as part of my constituency, I, too, am under an obligation to take action.
But I am not alone. Ideally, the Ikwezi council should be taking action without being prompted by protest action. We have all but given up on that hope.
So what action will I and my DA colleagues take?
1. The Ikwezi Municipality has done its residents an extreme disservice. It has mismanaged the administration and the finances of the municipality such that illegal appointments have been made, irregular and wasteful payments have been processed, contractors and consultants have been appointed and paid without due process, and has brought the municipality to a state of bankruptcy. The MEC threw the municipality a lifeline in July last year (albeit a poorly crafted attempt). The Municipality has done nothing to rectify its dysfunctionality. It is time for the Mayor to go. The people of Ikwezi cannot afford his obvious incompetence.
2. Every one of the recommendations contained in the MEC’s report must be acted upon, thoroughly and transparently. The MEC allowed 30 days from the date of presentation of his report for action to be taken. So, we too demand that action be taken within 30 days – by Friday 20 March 2015, in other words. By that date, inter alia:
The matter of the irregular appointment of the Municipal Manager, Mr Gutas, must be finalised;
- The irregular appointment of the unqualified Chief Financial Officer must be declared;
- Contracts with consultants and contractors that were concluded without following the Supply Chain Management policy must be terminated;
- Disciplinary action must be instituted for unauthorised payments by the Chief Financial Officer, including an advance payment of R1 million to a contractor;
- Civil action must be instituted to recoup, from the responsible municipal officials, the irregular payment of R23 257,64 as an acting allowance and R20 000 bonus to the MM’s Personal Assistant, the irregular payment of R46 145,88 as an acting allowance to the Performance Management Unit, and the irregular payment of R670 729,51 as an acting allowance paid to the illegally-appointed Legal Advisor be recouped;
- A detailed plan to address the adverse findings of the report must be compiled, made public via a council meeting, and submitted to the MEC.
3. The South African Constitution demands that “the national government and provincial governments… must support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and to perform their functions”. The MEC is obviously fully aware that his ANC cadre-colleagues are running the Ikwezi Municipality into the ground; he has already acted in terms of section 139(5) of the Municipal Systems Act. MEC Xasa has commissioned an enquiry (referred to above), and has assigned an acting Municipal Manager to the council. Clearly, the minimal intervention has not resulted in a true strengthening of the capacity of the municipality. The MEC has a constitutional obligation to monitor progress, and demand action. He has reneged on his obligations. But Mr Xasa must become actively involved in the fortunes of Ikwezi Municipality and its long-suffering residents.
4. Local government elections will be held next year. The need for change is clear. We will campaign vigorously for the people of Ikwezi to vote DA, in order to secure a government that can make their municipality work for them.
We demand action to protect Ikwezi residents from self-serving politicians and officials who have robbed Ikwezi ratepayers of the service delivery they deserve. Most importantly, we demand action from the provincial- and national government make Ikwezi work as per the prescripts of the Municipal Systems and Structures Act, as well as those of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Annette Lovemore, MP
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