Durban - An even-handed approach is required from the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) when dealing with disputes in municipalities, so that the KwaZulu-Natal local government does not collapse.
This is the view of some members of the Cogta portfolio committee following revelations that some decisions taken in some municipalities had been in violation of standing rules on local government, owing to the tussle for power among political parties.
Head of department (HOD) Thando Tubane told committee members last week that KZN is in danger of disintegrating into chaos if the stand-offs playing out at some municipalities are not dealt with.
He cited instances where a municipal manager and speaker of a council had refused to call a council sitting when indications were that the meeting could result to a change in leadership.
“We now have a situation where councils go to courts, and the decision favours them. We respect the rule of law and the separation of powers, but if this continues local government will be affected,” said the HOD.
He cited Alfred Duma Municipality (Ladysmith) as a case in point.
DA committee member Martin Meyer said if people did not follow the rules, Cogta had the legal requirement and obligation to act on it.
“But on the other hand we also need to be very wary that Cogta cannot be weaponised against municipalities. What I mean is that if the provincial government is under the control of one specific party, that cannot be used to act against another political party that might be governing certain municipalities so there are some very fair complaints and concerns regarding some municipalities,” said Meyer.
IFP member Otto Kunene agreed that instability in some councils was caused by the rift between ANC and IFP councillors, but echoed the DA’s sentiments of a need for a fair application of the law when it came to intervening in municipalities, questioning the role that Cogta sometimes played.
He said while there were challenges in IFP-run municipalities, the fairness from the department was questionable.
“When there are questions of stability in our councils the department is very swift at intervening, but look at what Cogta has done with eThekwini, there are partial interventions when a complete takeover in the form of Section 139 should have been implemented long ago,” said the MPL.
He warned that where the IFP felt it was unfairly treated by Cogta, it would approach the courts for assistance.
Committee chairperson Zinhle Cele expressed concern over the instability reported in some councils and the reported intimidation of department officials.
“We will approach the National Council of Provinces, the national portfolio Cogta committee and the SAPS if need be because it cannot be that there are officials who cannot do their work because they fear for their lives,” she concluded.