DA lashes out over failing Eastern Cape municipalities

DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga addresses the media on the state of municipalities in the Eastern Cape
UNACCEPTABLE SITUATION: DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga addresses the media on the state of municipalities in the Eastern Cape
Image: WERNER HILLS

The DA in the Eastern Cape has presented itself as a party with a plan before the local government elections later in 2021.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday on the collapse of local municipalities in the province, DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga blasted co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Xolile Nqatha for being “absent”.

Bhanga and Nqatha are set to square off at the Port Elizabeth High Court next week as the MEC wants the DA leader’s election as Nelson Mandela Bay mayor nullified.

Bhanga was joined by MPLs Vicky Knoetze and Bobby Stevenson, as well as party provincial chair Andrew Whitfield.

Bhanga said service delivery had collapsed in some municipalities.

People across the province live with rubbish piling up in their communities, sewage flowing in the streets and constant water and electricity outages as part of their daily lives,” he said.

“A large number of local municipalities in the Eastern Cape are on the verge of total collapse.

“Service delivery is deteriorating rapidly in the devastating wake of alarming levels of financial mismanagement, severely bloated local authorities and a complete lack of consequence management.”

Bhanga’s statement comes as the troubled Amathole District Municipality has said it will not be able to pay salaries for four months.

A circular, signed by municipal manager Thandekile Mnyimba and dated January 7, indicated the municipality would not be paying its staff a cent for February, April, May and June.

And there is no guarantee it will be able to pay salaries beyond that.

The municipality has since said it has asked the provincial and National Treasury for a bailout to pay workers, councillors and traditional leaders.

Bhanga said the state of most municipalities was unacceptable.

“More than a third of municipalities in the province have been allowed to deteriorate to a state of complete bankruptcy,” he said.

“A recent example is the ADM, which will be unable to pay staff, councillors and creditors during February, April, May and June of this year.

“This is a shocking indictment of the leadership of these municipalities.

“It is extremely concerning that the provincial government waits until there is complete collapse of municipalities before intervening.” Bhanga said.

After the news of Amathole’s predicament, Knoetze wrote to Nqatha to ask the provincial government to establish a special task team for the evaluation of distressed municipalities in the province.

“I believe this task team must re-evaluate the financial sustainability of all the municipalities in the province and carry out a complete re-estimation of which municipalities are in distress,” she said.

“Municipalities that are found to be in distress must either be placed under administration or dissolved completely in terms of section 139 of the constitution.

“The task team may also be tasked with assisting municipalities to finalise and approve their organigrams, fill critical vacancies, reduce their cost of employment by ensuring that only positions on the approved organigrams exist and that people who fill such positions are correctly qualified and fit for purpose, improve collection rates and assist the municipalities with viable financial recovery plans.”

Pointing to the only DA-run municipality in the province, Knoetze said Kouga was a prime example of what the DA was able to achieve, given the opportunity.

She said the party had managed to turn around one of the worst-run into the best-run municipalities.

Nqatha said: “I have received letters from MPL Knoetze which were always municipal-specific.

“I have not received the general one calling for assessment.

“Even if received, it is work we are doing through provincial treasury as we have [an] MOU between the two departments as it relates to supporting municipalities in the province.

“The work I’m doing is with the municipalities and communities, not in the media where the DA has a permanent seat.”

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