Durban — The DA in KwaZulu-Natal says it will seek a legal opinion and guidance on the “weaponisation” of ANC-appointed municipal administrators in terms of section 139 of the Constitution.
The party said on Tuesday it was concerned that the ANC provincial government-appointed administrators have become an impediment to making progress against the systemic tide of corruption and maladministration under previous ANC-run municipalities.
These administrators continue to do the bidding of their ANC masters to deliberately destabilise municipalities instead of working with the current councils to fix them, the DA said.
“While we believe the intention of section 139 is noble in its intent, we are of the view that the manner in which it is used and the lack of accountability relating to administration is problematic and needs further definition.”
To bolster its claim that the administrators do not have turnaround strategies, the DA said the province has seven municipalities that have been under section 139 as far back as 2016.
It cannot be that a municipality is under administration for that period of time without improvement, it said, noting that it speaks to the lack of performance and accountability of administrators.
Listing the main concerns around the administration process, the DA pointed out the lack of accountability of administrators.
This entailed a lack of accountability either to the council or the provincial legislature; a lack of performance indicators they are required to achieve; and political weaponisation of administrators by the provincial government.
The DA also questioned the process in which administrators were appointed and continually renewed without progress as well as the ability of administrators to subvert democratically elected council decisions, including implementing forensic reports.
“These concerns are crystallised in the uThukela District Municipality, which has had an administrator for the last six years.
“The administrator continues to do all that it can to hamper turning the municipality around, holding corrupt officials accountable and putting the municipality on a path to sustainability. “We believe this legal opinion is critical in addressing the growing frustration across the province with the section 139 intervention and the way it is abused.
“It is unthinkable that the ANC-EFF run eThekwini Municipality is not under administration; it underscores the way in which the ANC abuses the Constitution to suit its own aims.”
The DA said once the legal opinion was received, the legal review would allow the opposition to determine a legal strategy going forward so that it can ensure municipalities across KwaZulu-Natal receive the expert support and assistance they require to be free of ANC corruption and influence.
The DA’s sentiments were echoed by independent political analyst, Thobani Zikalala, who said the party’s concerns were genuine.
The appointment process of these administrators was not transparent, Zikalala said.
He was not against intervention by the provincial government in poor-performing municipalities, but the criteria to appoint administrators which no one knew except the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC, he said.
That raised questions about whether the person was chosen based on qualifications and experience or because of their political affiliation, he added.
“I concur with the DA on this. Until the appointment process was open and transparent, the public and the opposition had reason to believe that sometimes the administrators were used as tools by the ANC-led Cogta to micromanage those municipalities where the ANC did not get the majority of votes to govern,” said Zikalala.
He also agreed with the DA on accountability, saying the public was not being updated on the progress the administrator was making in the municipality because he or she only accounted to the MEC.
In terms of section 139(b), the administrator is a Cogta representative and reports directly to the MEC, but the DA’s view was that they should be reporting to the legislature, which will scrutinise their work, which must be in line with the performance targets.
KZN Cogta spokesperson Siboniso Mngadi said this was a DA view to which the party was entitled.
“Administrators are appointed in accordance with the legislation. Whoever wishes to challenge that must approach relevant bodies to change that,” Mngadi said.
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