By Temba Gubula
The decision to approve provincial intervention in the beleaguered Thabazimbi local municipality in Limpopo lies squarely in the hands of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), which is due to debate the matter soon.
However, if today’s deliberations of the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs are anything to go by, permitting the Limpopo government to intervene in this municipality could be a likely outcome.
During Committee deliberations, members agreed that the municipality had serious governance challenges that pointed to the necessity of support from the provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), the South African Local Government Association (Salga) and provincial Treasury.
Challenges stemmed from actions of an acting municipal manager who appointed the Chief Financial Officer and Director for Community Services without a municipal resolution or concurrence from the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) – a requirement enshrined in the Municipal Systems Act. There was also non-compliance with procurement processes, as a result of which irregular expenditure rose to R209 million in the 2012/13 financial year, from R73 million the previous year. The municipal council also failed to discharge its legislative requirement of exercising oversight over the municipal affairs.
On 16 February 2016, the MEC of Cooperative Governance in Limpopo tabled before the Chairperson of the NCOP, a notice of intervention into the Thabazimbi local municipality in terms of Section 139 (1) (b) of the Constitution. The Chair of the NCOP in accordance with NCOP Rule 101 then referred the matter to the Select Committee, which visited the municipality on 15 April 2016 and uncovered the challenges highlighted above.
During today’s deliberations, other members such as Mr Mergan Chetty wanted the municipality to be dissolved in terms of Section 139 (1) (c) of the Constitution, saying the intervention alone was unlikely to rescue the dire state of the municipality. Committee Chairperson Mr Jihad Mohapi reminded Committee members that their task was to consider the Section 139 (1) (b) notice by the Limpopo provincial government and nothing about 139 (1) (c).
Acknowledging the need for intensified intervention to aid the municipality, the Committee agreed to amend its report such that it tasks the MEC of Cogta in Limpopo and provincial Treasury to take the municipality through financial management workshops, to address challenges of salary discrepancies and tariff structure related challenges. The Committee also said it was imperative for Salga and the MEC to find ways of addressing capacity challenges in the municipality.
Another consideration the Committee took into account when recommending approval of the intervention was the optimism and commitment stakeholders made to ensure the municipality improved. “While we agree that the municipality needs all the help it can get, it will not make sense for us to propose a dissolution when affected stakeholders of this municipality committed themselves towards improving the manner this municipality is run. Let us give the intervention an opportunity,” said Mr Mohapi.