Debate on the Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill by Hon Richard Mdakane in the National Assembly

21 February 2019

I rise on the behalf of the Portfolio Committee and the ANC to present this report on the Bill, which was supported for all the provisions in the Bill by all the Parties. The amendments we effected in the Bill will go a long way in bringing about the effective Government closer to the people, as well as ensuring that the service delivery agenda of local Government, which is bringing a better life for all communities is achievable at a faster pace. Thus, this Bill represents a culmination of engagements with all local Government stakeholders over many years. The Amendments have been sponsored by amongst others, provincial CoGTAs, the Independent Electoral Commission, and the Municipal Demarcation Board.

Furthermore, the proposed amendments were further considered, and some of the provisions strengthened during deliberations that were held in Parliament in November and December 2018.

Nevertheless, the Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill (the Bill) contains provisions that are aimed at addressing, firstly, the challenges that were experienced in the management and administration of local Government elections, and secondly, the strengthening of governance in Municipalities. Therefore, the Bill deals with, amongst others, the following electoral- related matters, which are;

  • Clarifying the date when a councillor assumes office;
  • Requirements for the Municipal Manager (MM) to inform the MEC and IEC of ward vacancies;
  • Provide for the resolution of a situation where excessive seats may arise, and
  • Allow for the MEC to inform the IEC of vacancies when the MM fails to do so.

Subsequently, the Bill also deals with the following governance-related matters, through;

* Abolishing the plenary-type municipality;
* Providing for a minimum of 10 councillors in a municipality;
* Allow for a deviation of 20% of the number of councillors determined for a municipality, in municipalities that are larger than 20 000 square kilometres;
* Prohibit councillors from becoming a councillor for two years if such councillor breached the Code of Conduct;
* To allow the MEC to designate a person to call and chair a meeting, when the MM refuses to do so; and
* Provide for the establishment of Municipal Public Accounts Committees.

Moreover, the Bill further stipulates the following functions of a Whip, as to;

* Liaises with the different political parties to ensure representation in council and council committees;
* Maintains sound relations between the various political parties;
* Informs the Whips of all parties on important matters on the council agenda;
* Assists the speaker to count votes in the council meeting;
* Facilitates the interaction between the executive and legislative oversight structures in the municipality; and
* Resolves disputes between the speaker, mayor or executive mayor, or members of the mayoral committee.

Consequently, it was noted that the Democratic Alliance (DA) did not support the requirement for all municipalities to have a Whip, but supported that there be a requirement of a minimum of 40 councillors in a municipality, before a municipality may qualify to have a Whip. Conversely, the proposal from the DA was not acceded-to because of the status quo presenting with approximately 170 municipalities (locals and districts) that have 40 and fewer councillors. By having the minimum requirement of 40 councillors would mean that almost two-thirds (66.1%) of municipalities will not qualify to have a Whip. Thus, this would defeat the drive to establish the office of Whip to ensure the smooth running of municipal councils.

On the other hand, another important change that will take effect in local government is the abolishment of the plenary type municipality. This was done because of the limitations that were posed by the plenary type of municipality, such as the following:

* All municipalities will, with effect from the next term of local government (2021), have a minimum of 10 councillors and with 5 wards.

* The practice of councillors being removed from office and then only to stand for a by-election immediately thereafter will be done away with. In future, a councillor removed from office for a breach of the Code of Conduct, will only be eligible to become a councillor again after a waiting period of two years.

Subsequently, although councils presently establish Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs), the Bill mandates all councils to establish this very important oversight structure. The Bill stipulates that the mayor or executive mayor, deputy mayor or executive deputy mayor, any member of the executive committee, any member of the mayoral committee, speaker, Whip and municipal officials, are not allowed to be members of the MPAC. Importantly, reports of the Committee must be submitted to the speaker who must table such reports in the next meeting of the municipal council.

Conclusion

If the provisions and interventions that are contained in the Bill are implemented by all municipal councils, it is certain to make a positive difference in attempts to upscale governance and to ensure that municipalities find certainty in how to process challenges that they are confronted-with. The Memorandum on the Objects of the Bill provides further information in respect of each of the provisions that are contained in the Bill (refer attached).

Finally, the ANC and the portfolio committee is of the view that the amendments contained in this Bill will assist a great deal in strengthening and ensuring capable political leadership and oversight management that is accountable and transparent at Local level and capable of delivering on its mandate, that of using public resources to better the lives of the majority, especially the poor

I thank you.

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