Address by Minister Zweli Mkhize, MP, Minister for Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs during the Second Reading Debate on the Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill [B19-2018] in the National Assembly
on 21 February 2019
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
In his State of the Nation Address President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined the five most urgent tasks at this moment in our history:
Firstly, we must accelerate inclusive economic growth and create jobs.
Secondly, improve the education system and develop the skills that we need now and into the future.
Thirdly, improve the conditions of life for all South Africans, especially the poor
Fourthly, step up the fight against corruption and state capture.
Fifthly, strengthen the capacity of the state to address the needs of the people.
The Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill speaks to all these tasks.
It comes as we celebrate twenty-five years of democracy and nineteen years of fully democratic local government.
Building democratic developmental local government has been a mammoth task.
We have brought together over 1200 disparate apartheid local government entities into a coherent system of 257 wall-to-wall municipalities that 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.
This Bill represents the lessons that we continue to learn as women and men who, in the words of Franklin Roosevelt, quoted by President Ramaphosa during the SONA are “in the arena, whose faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strive valiantly; who err; but who actually strive to do the deed.”
We thank those with hands on experience of 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 amendments seek to strengthen governance in municipalities and to deal with challenges in the management of local government elections.
Breach of the Code of Conduct
It takes forward the fight against corruption and state capture.
Firstly, it bans any councillor who has been removed from office for a breach of the Code of Conduct from becoming a councillor again for two years.
Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs)
Secondly, it makes it mandatory for all municipalities to establish Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs).
Importantly, the amendments prohibit officials or holders of political offices such as mayors, speakers, and whips from being members of MPACs.
The amendments spell out clearly 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.
Gone should be the days of indefinite delays in tabling MPAC reports.
The amendment bill seeks to contribute to deepening democracy, strengthening governance, and bringing councillors closer to their constituencies.
Firstly, it abolishes the plenary-type municipality, and ensuring that there is a minimum of ten councillors in a municipality with at least five wards;
Secondly, it reduces the extent of changes to municipal ward boundaries by allowing for a deviation of up to twenty percent of the number of councillors determined for a municipality, in municipalities that are larger than twenty thousand square kilometres;
Thirdly, it allows an 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 forty or more councillors.
The amendments spell out the powers and functions of whips who contribute to good governance and political stability.
Lastly, 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 an MEC to inform the IEC of vacancies when a Municipal Manager fails to do so.
We take this opportunity to encourage all South Africans to register to vote on 8 May 2019 before the President formally proclaims the election date and the voters’ roll closes.
We thank the Chairperson the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Hon Richard Mdakane, and its members for their hard work and the broad support for this important bill.
We thank you.