Dysfunctional Makana municipality slammed by COGTA minister

Municipality spent just 58% of its budget says Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister

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During her keynote address at Rhodes University Student Representative Councillors Leadership Week, COGTA Minister Thandi Nkadimang sharply criticised Makana Municipality for its governance failures. Photo supplied

  • Delivering a keynote address at Rhodes University, COGTA Minister Thembi Nkadimang said she had seen Makhanda’s crumbling infrastructure first hand.

  • While the City was failing to provide water to its residents, the minister noted that it had only spent 58% of its budget in the 2022/23 financial year.

  • More than R21-million earmarked for infrastructure had been taken back by National Treasury because the municipality had failed to spend it.

Characterised by years of dysfunction and mismanagement, the Makana Local Municipality was lambasted by Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Thembi Nkadimang on Tuesday.

Speaking at Rhodes University in Makhanda, Nkadimeng said she had taken a drive around the historic Eastern Cape city and saw first hand the degenerating infrastructure. The city, which hosts the annual National Arts Festival and is home to Rhodes University, has not been able to maintain water supply for more than four years.

Nkadimeng noted that the municipality had only spent 58% of its R695-million budget over the past 2022/23 financial year.

The 2021/22 Auditor-General’s report notes Makana had at that point received disclaimed audit opinions for four years running.

“When you assess our councillors and you ask them about their Local Economic Development (LED) units and strategy, they show you one or two people sitting behind an old building which is not even well taken care of and there is no LED strategy,” said Nkadimeng.

She said municipal councillors’ powers need to be reduced in order to achieve good governance, and there needed to be a clear line between political and administrative roles.

“At local government, one of the challenges we have is that these two lines are very blurred. In fact, I am arguing that in the review of local government we have to reduce the power of councillors if we want to do something about how we manage the affairs of the public … You can’t be a player and a referee at the same time.

“In council, a person today is a councillor, tomorrow an acting mayor reporting to himself on what he did today. The system has never been designed properly.”

She said sometimes municipalities did hire competent people with the right skills, but when they then defied politicians’ improper instructions, they got suspended.

“To make decisions is not an issue, but to make a wrong decision knowing that it is wrong, I have a problem with that. Council in some instances openly and deliberately do this. They hire qualified people who will tell them this needs to be done this way and the councillor will say we must do it the other way. When you don’t do it, quickly tomorrow they call a special council, you are charged with insubordination, suspended for 90 days. They come with a further charge on the 90th day. You go to Labour Court and win. And they defy a court order. You can’t sit with so much power today.”

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela said politicians need to reach a level of maturity in order to serve the electorate with distinction. “There is just too much ego, pride and opportunism, so I really don’t have much hope,” said Mabizela.

A meeting of the Makana Municipality Infrastructure Development Portfolio Committee on 9 February this year revealed that more than R21-million earmarked for infrastructure was taken back by national government because the municipality failed to spend it. The municipality applied to the National Treasury for the money to be rolled over so that it could be spent this financial year, but this was rejected.

Questions sent to municipal spokesperson Anele Mjekula and municipal manager Pumelelo Kate received no response.

TOPICS:  Local government

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