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DA unveils plan to assist ailing Eastern Cape councils

DA MPL Bobby Stevenson.
DA MPL Bobby Stevenson.
Image: Werner Hills

The DA in the province has devised a turnaround strategy for financially distressed municipalities in the Eastern Cape whose sorry state affects the delivery of services.

DA MPLs recently embarked on a two-week oversight visit to 13 affected municipalities to speak to their public representatives, business forums and civil society about issues affecting the people, due to maladministration.

This prompted the party to come up with ways which would assist the affected councils in turning around their situation to ensure they are able to function optimally so that services are delivered.

The municipalities they visited are Amathole, Amahlathi, OR Tambo, Enoch Mgijima, Chris Hani, Dr AB Xuma [formerly Engcobo] Dr Beyers Naude, Inxuba Yethemba, Makana, Sundays River Valley, Raymond Mhlaba, Ingquza Hill, and Walter Sisulu.

Speaking at the party’s virtual press briefing on Wednesday, DA MPL Bobby Stevenson said the condition of the Eastern Cape’s municipalities was the major driver of brain drain and population migration which directly impacted the province’s economy.

“The state of our municipalities is the major driver of outward migration of the population of this province, which not only impacts on the economy but also the equitable share that is received by municipalities.

“The latest statistics [Stats SA report] show that there’s been a net increase in the outward migration between 2016 and 2021 of 390,000 people.

“Our provincial proponent of the equitable share has declined between 2003 and 2021 from 17% to 12.7% and we have lost out on R54bn in revenue during this period.

“What happens in municipalities that are far from you actually impact on service delivery for the whole province in terms of the equitable share we get from national government. When the people are not there, the money is reduced accordingly.”

In June this year, auditor general Tsakani Maluleke again painted a gloomy picture of how the province’s municipalities were managed, with poor financial management practices continuing unabated.

The municipal audits showed a serious regression over the past five years, with provincial municipal bosses not adequately promoting transparency and accountability, or safeguarding the public purse against abuse.

In its proposed turnaround strategy, the DA suggested that municipalities should:

• Cut their bloated wage bill which is the single biggest cost driver for most local governments;

• Collection of revenue which has a direct effect on the cashflow of the municipality;

• To ring-fence the electricity department to ensure Eskom payment, repairs and maintenance of electricity infrastructure;

• Identify additional revenue streams such as traffic fines, licensing permits, leases etc; and 

• Ensure that service charges and tariffs are cost reflective.

DA MPL Vicky Knoetze, who sits in the portfolio committee for Cogta, said the national fiscus was not in a position to bail out these municipalities, which meant council and administration had to work together to turn things around.

“Most of these affected municipalities are under government intervention.

“It has been proven time again that placing them under administration does not help.

“The Enoch Mgijima has had three different administrators and its situation is still the same.

“The intervention is not supposed to be implemented indefinitely but should have a time frame but we find that these councils never come out of administration.

“This is because the administrators are not willing to make the difficult decisions that touch on cadre deployment which is another major issue.”

Knoetze said one of the issues faced by DA councillors at municipalities was the lack of democracy as they were often not given the chance to speak, with ANC councillors refusing the option of voting on particular issues.

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