A Pietermaritzburg local newspaper, Public Eye, broke the news of the city’s failure to stay afloat, reporting that a worsening state of municipal affairs in the provincial capital, including the collapse of service delivery, a looming financial crisis and allegations of internal sabotage, resulted in the provincial government placing the municipality under administration.
When contacted for comment, Msunduzi municipal mayor Themba Njilo said he could not comment as there had been no formal correspondence to the municipality.
Spokesperson for the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Lennox Mabaso said media speculations on Msunduzi had been noted; however, the reports had no sources and no reports to back their articulations.
“As the department, should it come to our attention that a decision has been taken on any municipality in the province, we always take the public into our confidence and make official pronouncements. We are not going to deviate from this tradition,” he said.
Mabaso said the department refused to be drawn into authenticating speculations and reports from faceless sources.
“We ask the media to allow us space to work. In the case of new developments, we will invite and inform the media and the public accordingly. We will not be commenting beyond this,” he said.
However, DA MP Mergan Chetty told The Mercury that the KwaZulu-Natal provincial cabinet made the decision late last week to place the municipality under administration.
He said that the provincial cabinet invoked Section 139 (1) (b), Administration of the Constitution, which states “when a municipality cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the Constitution or legislation, the relevant provincial executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation, including assuming responsibility for the relevant obligation in that municipality.”
He added that for the past year, the DA had been calling on both the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube and Minister Zweli Mkhize to place Msunduzi under administration and dissolve the council.
While welcoming the decision to place the municipality under administration, Chetty said the DA was dissatisfied that the MEC did not choose to intervene by dissolving the council completely.
“This would have resulted in new elections being held for Msunduzi. Currently, under Section 139 (1) (b), the councillors and council have no powers as the administrator is now responsible, which means that the ratepayers’ money gets wasted on salaries of councillors,” he explained.
He said the opposition party believed this intervention had come “a little too late”, as basic service delivery in the municipality had collapsed totally.
The last publicly available financial records showed that, as of June 2018, Msunduzi’s outstanding debt had soared to over R3 billion.
Chetty said the DA would request an urgent meeting with the new administrator to ensure the president’s special investigating unit report, the minister’s investigation report as well as the MEC’s own investigation report would be implemented and those implicated and found to be guilty would be charged.