Duo to get municipal services back on track

Durban’s former municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe is part of the eThekwini Strategic Support Team (ESST) tasked with restoring the City to its former glory. He will be joined by Dr Cassius Lubisi. l Nqobile Mbonambi Independent Newspapers

Durban’s former municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe is part of the eThekwini Strategic Support Team (ESST) tasked with restoring the City to its former glory. He will be joined by Dr Cassius Lubisi. l Nqobile Mbonambi Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 1, 2024


Durban — Twelve months. That’s the time given to the newly-appointed eThekwini Strategic Support Team (ESST), which has been assigned to turn around Durban’s ailing municipality.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune this week, KZN Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Thulasizwe Buthelezi said, based on their vast experience, he had chosen Dr Mike Sutcliffe and Dr Cassius Lubisi to implement the turnaround plan for eThekwini to restore the city to its former glory.

“For all intents and purposes, service delivery has collapsed in many areas of eThekwini, so they are going to streamline all the efforts which other departments have put in place to assist eThekwini departments, like the Department of Water and Sanitation,” said Buthelezi.

“Also, the Presidential Working Group are there to streamline all efforts under the umbrella of 154, so we expect them to hit the ground running as from Monday so that the city becomes functional again.”

The duo will start their work on Monday and report on their progress every four weeks. Their appointments come after the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) decided to implement a Section 154 intervention in the municipality to resuscitate it. Buthelezi said that if the municipality co-operated with the intervention they would see tangible results in a year.

“eThekwini used to be the shining jewel in the crown of KwaZulu-Natal. It has run as a world class city in terms of governance and service, but over the years the government of eThekwini has deteriorated sharply.

“If you go to Inanda, they go for weeks without water. You go to Umlazi, they go for weeks without waste collection. You go to Westville, there are serious problems in terms of how the municipality has not been responsive to their needs.”

Buthelezi said the ESST’s terms of reference were to “advise and support”, but the power to implement any necessary changes still rested with the council and executive committee.

Last week, Buthelezi met the City’s executive committee to emphasise that they needed to work hand in hand with the ESST, but Sutcliffe and Lubisi were not part of the meeting.

“They come with a wealth of experience in how governance is supposed to be done. I think they are the most appropriate people who can bring the necessary change to eThekwini because what we are doing is in the interest of the municipality itself. But more importantly, we are intervening on behalf of the ratepayers of eThekwini,” Buthelezi said.

While political parties in the municipality agreed that change was needed, some questioned why a Section 139 wasn't imposed, which would have put the municipality under administration. However, Buthelezi warned that possibility was not off the table.

“We thought, let us give the leadership of eThekwini the benefit of the doubt. Instead of me taking away powers and giving them to an administrator, let us work together. Because it is only them that can turn around the situation, and if we feel that they are not co-operating then I reserve the right to impose Section 139.”

Buthelezi said the outcome would depend on the level of co-operation given to the ESST.

“There are many investigations that have been conducted and completed under the City’s Integrity Investigations Unit. Those recommendations have not been implemented, so I expect them to look at those investigations and implement the recommendations. Also, in terms of a sustainable water supply, there is a huge outcry from the people of eThekwini because if you pay your rates and taxes to the municipality then you expect at least a functional municipality.”

Buthelezi said the municipality’s downward spiral had occurred over a number of years.

“In just two consecutive quarters, eThekwini has incurred a regular over-expenditure of R1 billion, so the financial management needs attention.”

On Saturday, Sutcliffe told the Sunday Tribune that he was “delighted” to be part of the intervention team, but could not comment on the matter yet.

“We haven’t started any work, so I can’t even say I’ve been to City Hall again and visited people there,” he said.

Municipal government expert Professor PS Reddy from the University of KwaZulu-Natal said that in the past five to 10 years there had been a steady decline in the City’s governance, and he urged the public to hold councillors accountable on a regular basis.

“We need to get on track again in terms of the municipality discharging its developmental mandate and making sure that it improves the quality of life of the citizenry, especially the very poor in terms of basic services. And we also need to restore the confidence of the investors to make sure that there’s more investments in Durban and it also leads to job creation and poverty alleviation. So, I think Dr Mike Sutcliffe is up to that task,” said Reddy.

Sunday Tribune