Another Malamulele brewing in OR Tambo District Municipality
The United Front in the Eastern Cape has noted with dismay, disappointment and shame the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan’s endorsement of changes that the Municipal Demarcation Board has announced to disestablish and to merge Ingquza Hill and King Mhlontlo local municipalities with other municipalities.
The United Front not only feels that the decision and endorsement are top-down but that the move is tantamount to a systematic undoing of local government and has the potential to lead strife in the area.
Firstly, the demarcation board’s approach negates the principle of wall-to wall-municipalities introduced in 2000.
Secondly, the test used in determining viability, sustainability and tax base of municipalities; commercialises local government as it puts the burden of running local government on “clients” than on those ”appointed” to run local government. Thirdly, the decision of the demarcation is oblivious to histories of the area. Ingquza Hill is the seat of AmaMpondo under Her Majesty, Queen Lombekiso MaSobhuza Sigcau.
To take areas under her jurisdiction to other chiefs and headmen is an affront to her dignity and reputation. Equally, the transfer of King Mhlontlo’s areas to municipalities with different traditional leaders has the potential to lead to feuds in the area. Traditional leaders are always used and seen as pawns not as representatives of people in their own right. The Municipal Demarcation Act No.27 of 1998 stipulates that among the factors to be taken into account in demarcation of municipalities are areas of traditional rural communities.
The United Front believes that Minister Gordhan by endorsing the demarcation board’s decision, he commits the same mistake which has seen him and his team travelling to Malamulele, only to go there and make promises in a volatile situation The UF has noted various inconsistencies and procedural flaws in the changes.
Although legislation allows the Minister him endorse demarcations, we strongly believe that he is far removed from the realities of the two municipalities. Gordhan is obviously pushing the agenda of a certain faction of the ruling party that is interested in gerrymandering and tinkering with municipal boundaries before the 2016 municipal elections.
It is our view that Minister Gordhan is playing with the emotions of the residents and unfortunately in this case he is the judge, juror and executioner. He writes and requests the demarcation board when it suits him. When it does not suit him he delegates the demarcation board to announce the bad news.
In an environment riddled by corruption, nepotism, jobs for pals, inefficiency and a culture of impunity what is required is not devious demarcation but the strengthening of local democracy and support for local government by provincial and national spheres of governance.. The populist approach that Minister Gordhan seems intent on following actually undermines local government.
The United Front feels the time has come for residents and the greater South African populace to interrogate whether local governments are serving the purpose they were designed for and scrutinise the role of the demarcation board. We call upon our people to be ready for an engagement with the demarcation processes and to defeat any devious intent. The United Front is ready to assist residents and communities to defeat the dangerous tendency to use demarcation for factional purposes.
Statement issued by Pasika Nontshiza, United Front, January 27 2015