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Question over ‘selective intervention’ in KZN municipalities

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi addresses a meeting

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi dismissed suggestions that political motives were behind interventions in municipalities. File Picture: Supplied.

Published Jun 26, 2023


Durban - IFP member of the provincial legislature (MPL) Blessed Gwala has accused Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi of the selective application of Section 139 (to place a council under administration) especially in municipalities governed by the opposition.

Speaking at the KwaZulu-Natal legislature sitting yesterday, Gwala said while they were not against the department’s intervention where there was evidence of wrongdoing at councils, the MEC’s strategy raised questions.

“The IFP is not against any intervention by the MEC of Cogta to deal with transgressions in municipalities but we question her intervention strategy which seems to be politically motivated.

“Some municipalities have been under administration for quite some time now and it seems as if there is no progress that is being made to turn the tide, including in ANC-led municipalities such as the Msunduzi Municipality,” said Gwala.

This was in reference to the municipality which is the provincial seat of government and has been under administration since 2019.

According to the IFP MPL, the length of time the municipality had been under administration raised questions around the effectiveness of provincial administration and the capability of administrators deployed to these municipalities.

“Further, there is no clear time frame on how long the municipality should be placed under administration and what criteria is used when placing a municipality under administration.

“There is also a veil of secrecy when it comes to the money that has been spent by the department on administrators,” the MPL said.

KZN has eight municipalities under Section 139 including the ANC-controlled Msunduzi and Mooi Mpofana municipalities, but the rest, including Inkosi Langalibalele and Abaqulusi, fall under the IFP.

In her response, the MEC conceded that a number of municipalities were battling to operate efficiently, and that this had been the reason behind the Section 139 intervention. She dismissed suggestions that political motives were behind this.

“We are correcting matters that have been raised by the AG and also matters of financial management, matters of administration and human resource capacity that are in those municipalities,” she said.

While there was provision for ministerial representatives to be at a troubled council for a six-month term, there had been cases when this had been extended because there had not been any progress, she said.

The MEC said she had engaged with leadership at municipalities over the lack of progress.

“We cannot take the municipality out of an intervention so long as that municipality has not cleared all matters that have been raised by the AG,” she said.

Sithole-Moloi told the sitting that one of the challenges for the department was that the officials sent to the troubled municipalities often faced hostility from councillors, and this made it difficult for them to execute their tasks.

The MEC appealed to political parties to be receptive to department officials so that municipalities could return to normal operations sooner.

The IFP has previously contended that the ANC-controlled eThekwini metro needed a Section 139 intervention instead of Section 154, which it calls a watered-down version of intervention.