File photo: Reuters

Eastern Cape -

Councillors at an Eastern Cape municipality have tried to “illegally” upgrade it into a metro – a move that could have scored them an additional R31 million in salaries and perks per year.

Amahlathi councillors and management were locked in a meeting on Monday, where the council was advised against the decision by its own municipal manager.

The municipality, which has its seat in the town of Stutterheim, has an annual budget of less than R200m.

Former Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela, who is now a DA member, comes from the same area.

But the ANC in the Eastern Cape has blocked the decision.

Eastern Cape Local Government and Traditional Affairs MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said he did not agree with the Amahlathi municipality’s “upper limits”, which saw it upping its grade to 6 – which would make it a metropolitan municipality.

Qoboshiyane said he was yet to receive the correspondence from the municipality when the news broke that councillors had unilaterally increased their grade.

“Owing to the critical details and dynamics of this municipality, MEC Qoboshiyane will not concur with the grade 6 request from the Amahlathi municipality,” Qoboshiyane’s spokesman Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said.

He added that this was a period where municipalities sent their upper limits applications to the MEC for approval.

“At this time, the MEC appeals to all municipalities to prioritise service delivery, development and job creation in all they do, and not in their personal interests in the form of hiking their own salaries through these grades,” said Qoboshiyane.

Developments at the Amahlathi municipality were worrying because an investigation had already revealed “signs of disregarding administrative and financials systems with loose controls by the council”, he added.

“We trust that all our municipalities in the province will continue with service delivery, pumping more money into community development programmes and not salary grades.

“As the MEC is busy with municipal correspondence for his concurrence, his decision is guided by the legislative criteria – putting the needs of the people first, as well as the constitutional mandate of municipalities,” Qoboshiyane said.

Amahlathi municipal manager Balisa Socikwa said that, as management, they had no choice but to advise the council against the decision.

“This thing is done in terms of points. But there were differing views from different councillors.

“This would have been in contravention of the gazette. We told them it is unlawful and illegal,” Socikwa said.

The upgrade would have left the municipality in “dire straits” and costing R31m more in salaries and benefits for councillors for a municipality, with an annual budget of less than R200m, Socikwa added.

Political Bureau