Pretoria - Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi has mandated the Ministerial Task Team to investigate all issues relating to the demarcation of municipal boundaries, including the proposed merger of the Metsimaholo and Ngwathe local municipalities in the Free State.
The task team was set up last year and is headed by former Department of Transport director-general Mpumi Mpofu. It includes among its members Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, the chairman of the South African Municipal Demarcation Board, Landiwe Mahlangu, the North West MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs China Dodovu, and former National Party minister Roelf Meyer, who is involved in the Civil Society Initiative.
The team are to address a number of issues, including the reasons for changes to municipal boundaries being considered every time the country goes to the polls; whether the public participation process is managed in an environment where all the people have equal say in influencing possible changes in the new municipal boundaries; and whether the system is not open to hijacking, where the changes may only suit certain individuals who may be more vocal or advantaged by their positions and status.
It will also investigate whether all changes to municipal boundaries would lead to a better municipality in terms of service delivery.
Baloyi said at a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday that the task team, who would work with all relevant structures, was expected to complete its work by the end of next month. “The team will also facilitate and monitor that all unresolved demarcation-related questions (be) given due consideration by end of February 2013,” he said.
Baloyi said the demarcation board’s activities preparing for the 2016 local government elections had been suspended. This involved those relating to changes made to the municipalities.
According to Baloyi, this would be the case “until we are satisfied that the manner in which it is done is so transparent that it leaves no space for people to find faults in the process, or reduce that to a minimum”.
The government would have to be satisfied that reasons given by those who proposed the changes were thoroughly canvassed with the people, “to the extent that they see the advantages of such changes”.
Baloyi said people should be thoroughly prepared to participate in the process that might lead to changes in the boundaries of their municipalities.
“They must be given sufficient options and the right to appeal and be treated fairly,” he said.
Turning to the proposed merger of Metsimaholo and Ngwathe local municipalities, Baloyi said he had to act after receiving information that the people of Zamdela were protesting against the proposed merger, and that property was being damaged and shops were being looted.
“I was told by reliable sources that there was not one person on the ground offering a solution to stop the carnage, except for our police officials who were working so hard to manage the situation, but so little (was being done) in providing a solution, as what was demanded at the time was an answer in the area of local government,” said Baloyi.