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Doubts over the section 154 intervention for eThekwini, mayor says City has written to Cogta over terms of reference

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda seated at a council meeting.

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda says the City has written to the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs department to raise its concerns with the terms of reference for the Section 154 intervention. File Picture: Supplied.

Published Jul 14, 2023


Durban - The ANC in eThekwini Municipality is mounting a pushback against the section 154 intervention which was announced for the metro, charging that its terms of reference amount to placing the municipality under administration “through the back-door”.

The intervention was announced by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) a few months ago, amid concern that there were serious problems in the municipality, including its failure to spend grant funding.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda yesterday said they were engaging with the government on the matter following concerns about the terms of reference attached to the section 154 intervention.

ANC councillors also raised doubts that the intervention would happen.

Cogta announced a few months ago that the intervention would involve enlisting the assistance of municipal experts, including former city manager Mike Sutcliffe and former director-general in the presidency Cassius Lubisi.

The process of implementation hit a snag last month when Cogta MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi was blocked by councillors when she arrived at the council to introduce the intervention, saying proper processes had not been followed.

The councillors argued that Sithole-Moloi should have first briefed the Executive Committee before approaching full council. This stalemate fuelled speculation that the ruling party did not support the intervention.

However, the matter was brought up again during the discussion on the Budget Statement Report for the month ended 31 May 2023 at the council meeting yesterday.

A report on this revealed that the provincial Treasury believed that the municipality had already been placed under section 154.

It said during the discussions (on the budget statement by the finance committee), “it was noted that the Budget Statement Report reflected that the municipality has been placed under section 154 administration, reason given being lack of sense of urgency on service delivery”.

The finance committee questioned this statement since, according to their understanding, no formal notification of the intervention had been served before the council, said the statement.

During the council discussion, Kaunda shed light on the stand-off between the City and the provincial government.

“We have written to (Cogta) as we were not happy with the terms of reference for the intervention. The intervention purports to be section 154 intervention with the terms and conditions of section 139,” said Kaunda.

An official aware of the matter said: “Forget that intervention, it is stillborn. It’s not going anywhere. The last engagement we had with them (Cogta) was the last time we talked to them, they have not been back since.”

The official, who asked not to be named as he was not allowed to speak to the media, said if the council had agreed, the terms of reference allowed for a “takeover” of the municipality.

“They wanted to have a say in governance, in economic development, areas where there were no problems.”

He said initially, the ANC in council had thought that the intervention would make the operations of the municipality, which was trying to recover after a natural disaster, easy, but that has proved not to be the case.

“We had expected that they would assist us in getting funding quicker to recover from the disaster, that when it comes to procurement, we could be able to procure through national contracts on an emergency basis, we had also asked that the national government fix its roads that are in the city.

“Ever since that last engagement, they left and never came back and we do not know if they are coming back or they are still fixing those terms of reference,” said the source.

IFP councillor Jonathan Annipen said there should be clarity on what was happening with the intervention.

“Apart from the embarrassing moment when the provincial MEC for Cogta was unceremoniously ejected from the council by the ANC and their alliance partners, this is the first time (the matter has come up), albeit in a very shady manner.

“Additionally, there are remarks by the mayor Kaunda that eThekwini will not be accepting section 154 with the current terms of reference,” said Annipen.

DA councillor Warren Burne told the council that while they believed that section 139 (administration) was the best option, the council should clarify whether section 154 was still going ahead. If not, this should be made clear so the City could work to strengthen administration.