Lawmakers push for new Bill to prop up struggling municipalities

A political analyst said Covid-19 compounding factors, including payment holidays and redirection of resources, could see widespread crises.

Municipalities in distress could crack under the pressure as lockdown level 4 was expected to be lifted across the country, according to an expert.

Lawmakers are pushing for the urgent passing of a Bill which could improve the interventions for dysfunctional municipalities without putting them under Section 139 provincial administration.

Political analyst Dr Andre Duvenhage said compounding factors, including the payment holidays given to ratepayers and redirection of resources to accommodate Covid-19 challenges, could see widespread crises as municipalities struggled to make ends meet.

“Before Covid-19, about 80% to 90% of municipalities were at a certain degree of dysfunction and the majority of the challenges were financial problems and issues pertaining to the sustainability of those municipalities,” said Duvenhage.

“Now if you look at how the coronavirus is impacting municipalities, there is already a negative impact that we are seeing around especially the distressed municipalities.

“There will be a lot of aggravating factors that will affect service delivery, although there are some opportunities at the moment to implement positive changes.

“But this will be an overall negative for most municipalities.”

This week the select committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs, water and sanitation and human settlements urged the department to speed up the processing and finalising of the Intergovernmental, Monitoring, Support and Intervention Bill.

The Bill is intended to support dysfunctional municipalities and avert the application of Section 139 of the Constitution, which allowed provincial governments to dissolve a municipal administration.

Committee chairperson China Dodovu said the Bill would provide a more effective way of dealing with municipal challenges, as invoking section 139 had not always yielded positive results in the past.

“The clear evidence at our disposal points to the fact that the invocation of Section 139 has not always achieved its intended outcomes, which is to ensure the viability of the municipalities.

“As a committee, we have also highlighted that Section 139 interventions should be the action of last resort and we are hopeful that this legislation will be instrumental in offering the necessary support to struggling municipalities.”

Dodovu added that implementation of the Bill, as well as full implementation of the recently adopted district model, would be critical in the achievement of performance targets and the delivery of services within the Medium Term Strategic Framework period.

“South Africa must move beyond having good policy statements and towards effective implementation of those policies. Service delivery is important.”

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