SA reduces number of municipalities

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pretoria - The number of municipalities across the country will drop after the upcoming 18 May local government elections, says acting Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Nathi Mthethwa.

Making the announcement on Thursday while addressing Parliament about the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, Mthethwa said: "... Municipalities will decrease from 283 to 278, with wards growing beyond 4 000." 

"This shows our commitment to the intensification of local democracy in our communities. Since 1994, we have seen a reduction in the number of municipalities and an increase in the number of wards," he said. 

According to Mthethwa, the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill sends a clear signal that municipalities must become more professional in the manner in which they do their business. 

The Bill, which was unanimously passed by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on Tuesday, also seeks to ensure that competent and well qualified officials are appointed to provide the best possible service to the people.

"The Bill seeks to deepen accountability by the senior municipal officials to the Council and by the same token places certain obligations on politically elected officials. The Bill also prohibits municipal managers and those directly reporting to them (Section 57) from holding any position as office bearers in any political party," he said. 

The Bill also makes provision for organised Local Government to consult with the Minister responsible for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs prior to entering into negotiations with the Local Government Bargaining Council.

Mthethwa said they have realised that in some cases, municipalities are staffed by employees who are not qualified to undertake their duties. The Bill will make it mandatory for municipalities to employ appropriately qualified and competent persons.

He emphasised that the days of appointing book-keepers, teachers and social scientists as a Chief Financial Officers are over. 

"It is our view that Municipal Managers and their direct subordinates should possess inherent requirements for employment to avoid mediocrity in our institutions. 

"In the event the Councils act against this measure; either the MEC or [minister] will intervene decisively to remedy the situation. We have made specific provisions to enable the MEC and Minister to act in this regard," said Mthethwa.