The decision to remove the two has been widely praised by local government experts and civil society.
Gumede was blamed for the failure to utilise housing grants, uncollected litter in townships like uMlazi, and a utility billing crisis. Njilo was axed after his municipality was placed under administration.
A recent report, detailing the state of local government, compiled by KwaZulu-Natal’s Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Department revealed that service delivery had completely collapsed in some municipalities.
The Provincial Working Committee, tasked to find out what was wrong with municipalities, said some municipalities were unable to run a decent, reliable and effective billing system, and were unable to make use of various municipal grants.
Last month, Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka presented his budget speech, revealing 31 municipalities were in a financial crisis, describing it as a red flag. “We needed to ensure that, in every municipality, traffic lights are working, potholes are filled, water is delivered, refuse is collected, electricity is supplied, and waste management takes place. We have seen some positive results, notwithstanding the stubborn challenges - like in Msunduzi, eThekwini, Abaqulusi, or Big Five/Hlabisa,” Hlomuka said.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said Gumede left a trail of destruction in her wake.
“Her scorecard, as mayor and leader of the only metro in KwaZulu-Natal, is dismal. There is little doubt that the former mayor has left a legacy of defective services, wastage, poor management and aberrant leadership,” Tim Tyrrell said.
Tyrrell said there was no doubt that the problems faced by Msunduzi Municipality were multi-faceted and run deep throughout the organisation.
“However, a change in political leadership is a strong message, implying there is a will to turn the city’s fortunes around. For too long, Msunduzi has been ripped apart by factional politics and rampant corruption. It is hoped that the new leadership will put the city and its residents first.”
Cogta, together with Provincial Treasury, had undertaken an initiative where they carried out a comprehensive assessment of the state of local government.
“There are instances, in municipalities, where inter-party tensions, particularly within executive committees, have a negative effect on the decision-making process and swift and effective decisions, on critical matters, become delayed.”
Wits School of Governance Professor Susan Booysen said the ANC’s decision to axe senior officials was a sign that the party was taking tentative steps to clean up corruption.
“This is a huge step for the party and they need to follow through. It shows us that they are holding people accountable for their actions and, for many, this means that democracy and clean governance is not a mockery,” she said.