Durban – The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the embattled eThekwini Municipality has questioned why funding for a public event did not go through council and was instead approved via the Rule of Order 28 by-law.
The by-law allows for the delegation of powers during recess and emergencies if it is not possible to obtain a decision from the relative committee.
The rule requires the decision to be taken by the municipal manager in consultation with the mayor.
On 27 June, while a full council sitting was in progress at Durban City Hall, the city released a media statement announcing the event would take place on 29 June at King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi.
The following day the funding was approved via the by-law.
The city announced in a media statement on 23 June that it would no longer be outsourcing waste collection services for Umlazi as of 1 July and would instead be utilising its waste collection arm, Durban Solid Waste. The event was to inform Umlazi residents of the decision.
Umlazi has been plagued by waste collection problems for years as a result of disputes between the city and private contractors.
At an executive committee meeting on Tuesday, DA eThekwini caucus leader Nicole Graham questioned why the by-law was used, saying there had been time for the approval to go through regular channels as council only went into recess on 28 June.
She called it “vague, suspicious and concerning”.
According to a document presented to the executive committee on Tuesday, the event was not planned for and therefore not budgeted for.
The document stated that the council was in recess and that “Rule of order 28 becomes automatically applicable under these conditions”.
The funding for the event was signed off by the city manager, acting mayor and chief financial officer.
The city made available R1 150 620 - half of which was expected to be reimbursed by the provincial department of human settlements and public works.
Replying to Graham at the executive committee meeting, acting mayor Fawzia Peer said the issue had to be dealt with “urgently” as it affected Umlazi residents.
The ANC’s caucus leader, Nelly Nyamisa, said public meetings were a standard way of informing communities of government decisions.
She then said the issue should not be discussed further considering it was “sub judice” as “some members of the ANC” had been charged in relation to the terminated collection contracts.
Acting city manager Musa Mbhele, standing in for Sipho Nzuza, called the event “a resounding success”, saying that KZN premier Sihle Zikalala and human settlements and public works MEC Peggy Nkonyeni had attended.
He said under 3 000 Umlazi residents attended although up to 5,000 had been expected. The money was used for venue hire, buses, tents and marquees, he said.
Graham later said via a statement that almost 500 000 people lived in Umlazi and almost all had been affected by the “refuse collection crisis”.
If just under 3 000 residents turned up for the meeting, “only an estimated 0.6%” were actually engaged, Graham said. The event had cost almost R400 per attendee, she said.
She questioned the lack of any detailed report itemizing how the money was spent and said the DA would write to the city manager demanding a full report.