Durban - The experts deployed under the Section 154 intervention in eThekwini Municipality will have 12 months to tackle the challenges plaguing the city.
This was revealed by KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi during a question-and-answer session at the KZN Legislature yesterday.
The city faces general decay and infrastructure challenges, and has failed to spend R322million it received in grant funding.
IFP member of the provincial legislature (MPL) Otto Kunene had sought clarity regarding the intervention, including how long the team would remain in eThekwini.
Details around the intervention have been scarce, with the department revealing little information since it was announced a few weeks ago.
According to the MEC, former director-general in the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, will be the convener of the team of experts, which includes former eThekwini city manager and now local government consultant Dr Michael Sutcliffe.
The MEC also announced that Dr Thandeka Ellenson would join the team.
She indicated that in addition, the three members would have extra personnel with a wide range of skills to enable them to go about the task of helping the metro address areas that needed urgent attention, including the capacity to spend its grants.
Sithole-Moloi said the intervention was aimed at ensuring that eThekwini regained its capacity and was able to meet its service delivery mandate.
“The executive council resolved to provide comprehensive, co-ordinated and intensified support to eThekwini by deploying a multi-disciplinary crack team.
“The KZN government deems it necessary to provide support in terms of the section,” she told MPLs.
The MEC maintained that while eThekwini had challenges, these did not amount to a crisis that warranted a Section 139 intervention, where the municipality would be placed under administration.
“Section 139 is used as a last resort when it is clear that the municipality lacks the capacity to fulfil its executive functions,” Sithole-Moloi said.
“The current intervention will enable the multi-disciplinary team and other identified resources to undertake an extensive assessment on what is needed at the municipality,” the MEC said.
She indicated that the team would be paid R4.5m, a bill that it is believed will be footed by the provincial and national governments.
It remains unclear as to when the team will start its work in eThekwini.
DA MPL Martin Meyer challenged the MEC to look beyond her political allegiance and to save the city, insisting that the city was on the brink of collapse.
“The DA is mystified by the MEC’s insistence that things are not that bad in the eThekwini Metro. Any resident of the city will tell you that the city is dysfunctional, and this is backed up by the facts, as report after report shows how the metro is crumbling. I advise the MEC to get out of her big car with its rose-tinted windows, and see the metro for herself,” said the MPL.
He insisted that the city had gone beyond the need for a Section 154 intervention, labelling it a toothless move that nothing good would come of.
“The DA maintains its call that urgent intervention is needed through a Section 139 intervention,” Meyer said.
Kunene described the MEC’s response as wishy-washy, adding that it was as if she was merely ticking the boxes, but insisted that this would not deter the IFP from asking more questions on the intervention.
The IFP MPL applauded the speaker of the legislature, Nontembeko Boyce, for ensuring that members of the executive were held accountable.
“Today the speaker was on the side of accountability. The responses from the MEC, short on detail as they were, still provide room for follow-up questions, which we will certainly ask,” said the MPL.
Kunene reiterated that the Section 154 intervention was a watered-down version of the kind of action that was needed at the metro.
However, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs committee chairperson Zinhle Cele brushed aside calls to place eThekwini under administration, saying the city was far better off than most municipalities.
She noted that eThekwini had passed its budget and was still able to pay its staff.
“We appreciate the move to assist the municipality by bringing individuals who are experienced and have a proven track record in governance,” said Cele.
She said they were waiting to hear the terms of reference for the team when they had a meeting with the department.