Rooting out corruption in municipalities will get the kick-start it needs with amendments being made to the Municipal Structures Act.
At the second reading debate on the Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill in the National Assembly on Thursday, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said the Municipal Structures Amendment Bill will strengthen governance in municipalities and deal with corruption.
This in part will be achieved through forbidding councillors — who were removed from office for breaching the code of conduct — from becoming councillors again for a period of two years.
This amendment also makes it makes it mandatory for all municipalities to establish Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs).
“Importantly, the amendments prohibit officials or holders of political office such as mayors, speakers, and whips from being members of MPACs,” said Mkhize.
The amendments spell out the oversight powers and functions of MPACs, including the power to initiate investigations.
“Significantly, the amendments make it mandatory for MPAC reports to be submitted to speakers, who will obliged to table these reports in council,” said Mkhize.
The amendments, the Minister said, would largely address the country’s five most urgent tasks, as outlined by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the State of the Nation Address earlier this month. These tasks include accelerating inclusive economic growth and job creation, and improving the education system and developing skills.
Mkhize said addressing the needs of the people cannot be done without strengthening the State’s capacity.
“It comes as we celebrate 25 years of democracy and 19 years of fully democratic local government. Building democratic developmental local government has been a mammoth task.”
The democratic government has over the past two decades managed to amalgamate over 1 200 disparate apartheid local government entities into a coherent system of 257 wall-to-wall municipalities. These municipalities, Mkhize said, have contributed to improving the lives of millions of South Africans.
“We have travelled far but the road has and continues to be bumpy, uneven, strewn with potholes and obstacles and a number of very sharp bends. We thank those with hands-on experience on striving to do the deed in the local government arena for proposing these amendments, in particular, provincial CoGTAs, the South African Local Government Association, the Independent Electoral Commission, and the Municipal Demarcation Board.”
The amendment bill seeks to contribute to deepening democracy, strengthening governance and bringing councillors closer to their constituencies. It abolishes the plenary-type municipality, ensuring that there is a minimum of 10 councillors in a municipality with at least five wards.
The bill also reduces the extent of changes to municipal ward boundaries by allowing for a deviation of up to 20% of the number of councillors determined for a municipality, in municipalities that are larger than 20 000 square kilometres.
Thirdly, Mkhize said, it allows a MEC to designate a person to call and chair a meeting when the municipal manager refuses to do so.
Office of the Whip
The bill makes it mandatory for all municipalities to establish the important office of the whip, and for this position to be full-time in those municipalities with 40 or more councillors.
The amendments spell out the powers and functions of whips who contribute to good governance and political stability.
The amendment bill also improves the administration and management of local government elections.
“Firstly, it clarifies the date when a councillor assumes office after an election is held. Secondly, it provides for the resolution of a situation where excessive seats may arise. Thirdly, it allows a MEC to inform the IEC of vacancies when a municipal manager fails to do so,” said Mkhize