KwaZulu-Natal places two municipalities under administration
KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for co-operative governance Nomusa Dube-Ncube on Tuesday announced her decision to place two municipalities in the province under administration.
Nquthu local municipality and uMzinyathi district municipality had hung councils after the August 3 local government elections and subsequently failed to elect leaders.
The two councils are the only two still in limbo from a total of nine hung municipalities in the province after the elections.
However, opposition parties are crying foul, saying Dube-Ncube played right into the hands of the ANC and National Freedom Party (NFP), both of which were in a coalition in both councils before the recent elections.
Dube-Ncube cited unresolved court cases involving the EFF and NFP councillors in the troubled Nquthu local municipality for her decision. The councillors were suspended on suspicion in both parties that they would vote for the other side in the high stakes coalition-making decisions.
In Nquthu the IFP won 15 seats, the ANC 14, the NFP two, and the EFF and DA one each. The IFP, DA and EFF agreed to vote together while the ANC and the NFP, which was allowed to partake only in Nquthu local government elections, also agreed to form a coalition.
As a district municipality uMzinyathi cannot formulate its office bearers until Nquthu has elected its councillors.
Six council meetings meant to elect officer bearers in Nquthu were disrupted. The meetings were followed by court applications by EFF and the suspension of NFP councillors.
Dube-Ncube said on Tuesday in both councils the court had instructed the municipalities not to elect leaders until the disputes were resolved, as any election could later be rendered null and void.
She added that despite these warnings rival political parties continued their bickering and her department had no choice but to take over their administration to ensure that services were delivered to the people in the absence of the elected office bearers.
"I would like to emphasise that the decisions about intervention in municipalities are never taken lightly. But these measures are necessary when there are failures such as those seen in Nquthu and uMzinyathi municipalities.
"I also wish to stress that the decision to intervene in these two municipalities in terms of Section 139 (1) b of the Constitution is being taken in the best interest of the local people whom these [two] municipalities are meant to represent."
She said two administrators would manage the two municipalities to direct the rendering of services.
The ANC and the NFP — both of which were accused of disrupting council meetings to suit their agenda — welcomed the MEC’s decision, saying it would bring stability to the municipalities.
But other political parties criticised the move, describing it as partisan and designed to favour the ANC and to conceal massive corruption in the two municipalities.
Zwakele Mncwango, DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal, said the Nquthu council was due to meet on Wednesday to elect new leadership but the MEC’s announcement has thrown these plans into disarray.
"This is a clear case of political interference. It was clear from the outset that when the ANC failed to obtain the majority it then disrupted the council seating and tried to buy off opposition councillors. That tactic also failed. Now the MEC is interfering politically. This is wrong because she is using her position unlawfully," he said.
IFP national chairperson Blessed Gwala said the MEC’s intervention was motivated by a desire to protect her family members and other ANC leaders from investigations for possible conflicts of interest.
He cited a City Press report on Sunday about Dube-Ncube’s husband’s companies being involved in business with some northern KwaZulu-Natal municipalities.
Sifiso Kunene, an independent analyst based in KwaZulu-Natal, said the MEC’s intervention was a stopgap effort that would do very little to solve the political problems in those municipalities.
"I think the MEC had to intervene in one way on another because many weeks had passed after the local government elections but these municipalities had not had governing officials. This move by the MEC could either hasten efforts to find a solution between the warring parties or push these parties further apart," he said.