The MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) has placed the embattled Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) under administration, with all councillors accepting the intervention except the EFF.
The troubled and cash-strapped municipality has been struggling to pay salaries with its overwhelming salary bill, and continually declining revenue collection, thus making it difficult for the institution to pay its Eskom debt.
The MEC for Cogta, Xolile Nqatha, visited the local authority during a special council meeting last Thursday to invoke section 139 (1) (b) of the constitution in line with section 139 (b) (5).
The sections provide that when a municipality cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the constitution, the provincial executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation by placing an administrator and if that does not yield any positive result, dissolve it.
The MEC’s spokesman, Makhaya Komisa, said Nqatha had introduced Monwabisi Somana as the administrator as he was a seasoned municipal manager in several municipalities.
“The administration is in effect from today and Somana will work with a team of no less than five people who will report to the inter-ministerial committee that includes MEC for treasury Mlungisi Mvoko, MEC for rural development and agrarian reform Nomakhosazana Meth and is headed by Nqatha.
There is no time frame for the intervention, the team will remain until their work is done. Based on the two invoked sections, if the team is unable to conduct its work or is unable to turn the situation around, the municipality will have to be dissolved.”
EMLM mayor Luleka Gubhula said the council embraced the intervention and the leadership would ensure support the administrator and his team so they may do their work.
“We do not intend to always be under administration. We want to be assisted up to a point where we are able to operate independently. We will work together for as long as they are here. Councillors and officials who seek clarity about anything in relation to the intervention can approach the administrator, his door will always be open.
“There were no threats to the administrator this time around because we engaged with stakeholders after we received a communique from the MEC for Cogta about the intervention. We had a meeting with the troika, mayoral committee and ANC councillors and met with the management and directors. Staff were also engaged through their trade union.”
A fiery EFF whip, Luthando Amos, said the party would seek legal advice because they wanted to interdict the decision to place the municipality under administration.
“We will consult our legal team because we want to interdict this intervention from being implemented because it is a waste of time. We cannot as councillors be expected to be controlled by people from Bhisho who do not know what they are doing. Nothing is going to change, the same terms of reference that were tabled for the previous administrator remain, and that did not yield any results.
Amos called for the municipality to be dissolved, indicating that was the only remedy to ensure the institution was financially stable.
“This municipality is under-funded, the former Lukhanji municipality was a grade four institution. After the merger we were still grade four but we are a combination of three municipalities. Even if Jesus came himself to try and assist this municipality nothing would change because the conditions are still the same. Grading determines how much funding a municipality gets. Cogta needs to be placed under administration because it is a useless department that does not do what is expected of it, which is to support local municipalities. We are in this mess because of Cogta and they are not willing to take responsibility for their actions. No amount of promises or the 139 intervention will improve this municipality.”