Sutcliffe ‘delighted’ to be back

Dr Michael Sutcliffe, former eThekwini Municipality city manager, received an honorary doctorate from UKZN last year. | SETHU DLAMINI

Dr Michael Sutcliffe, former eThekwini Municipality city manager, received an honorary doctorate from UKZN last year. | SETHU DLAMINI

Published Jun 29, 2024


Durban — The two senior government veterans tasked with turning around the fortunes of the ailing eThekwini Municipality will begin their work on Monday.

Durban’s former city manager, Dr Mike Sutcliffe and Dr Cassius Lubisi, the former director-general in the Presidency, were appointed to lead a Section 154 intervention by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta). They now have the constitutional mandate to “support and strengthen” the metro in the running of its affairs.

Sutcliffe on Friday told Independent on Saturday that he wasn’t able to talk about the work “right now”, but was honoured to be part of the team.

“I’m delighted to be able to assist and support the city and certainly will be working as from Monday on developing a programme of action. I’m very thankful for the MEC’s consideration of myself and I think Cassius feels the same way. We really would like to help,” he said.

Earlier this week the City’s executive committee was briefed about the intervention, but Sutcliffe and Lubisi did not attend that meeting.

On Friday the municipality released a statement in which it noted the support introduced by Cogta. It said the City had been supported for a number of years by the National Treasury City Support Programme and more recently by the Presidential eThekwini Working Group to accelerate efforts by the municipality to improve service delivery, business confidence and reposition eThekwini as an investment and tourism hot spot.

“eThekwini council will engage further on KZN Cogta’s support to ensure there is alignment with the Presidential eThekwini Working Group and other support programmes such as the City support programme from the National Treasury.”

Municipal government expert Professor PS Reddy, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said in the past five to 10 years there had been a decline in good municipal governance in the City.

“In the first decade of democracy, it performed extremely well, even fairly recently. It was one of the top-performing municipalities on the continent, and it could compare favourably with some of the top cities in the world. But unfortunately, in the last, I would say, five years or decade, there has been a decline in good municipal governance.”

He said a solid team had been appointed to effect the intervention, especially with Sutcliffe’s vast experience at home and abroad.

“During his tenure at the municipality, we saw a great deal of progress.

“For example, if you’re looking at issues or aspects like the ICC, Ushaka Marine World, and even at our hosting of the World Cup in 2010, it was highly successful.”

The Section 154 intervention was first mooted last year and while it was welcomed by political parties, some felt it should have been a Section 139 intervention which would place the municipality under full administration.

ActionSA’s provincial chairperson Zwakele Mncwango said the Section 154 was a soft approach that failed to address the urgency and severity of the municipality’s problems.

“The municipality is currently set to write off more than R24 million due to irregular expenditure incurred over multiple financial years and R931 345 188.13m from July 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, after having written off R2 030 763 586.26 billion in February this year. This highlights the municipality’s incapacity to perform basic functions, further underscoring the necessity for Section 139 intervention,” Mncwango said.

Ish Prahladh, from the eThekwini Ratepayers and Residents Association, said it was still too early to comment on the Section 154 intervention, but said Sutcliffe had a good track record in the municipality.

“We need to know exactly what their plans are first,” he said.

Independent on Saturday