KZN’s jewel loses shine under financial burden
Pietermaritzburg has been placed under administration following years of maladministration
Pietermaritzburg was once one of the best run municipalities in the country, but the situation has deteriorated so badly over the past few years that KwaZulu-Natal provincial capital city is on the brink of financial collapse.
So dire are the finances of the ANC-run Msunduzi municipality that it was placed under administration on Tuesday by KZN co-operative governance & traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube after the ruling party leaders acknowledged it was no longer able to lift itself out of its financial doldrums.
The ship has been sinking for some time in the provincial capital, which has been plagued by service delivery problems, lack of infrastructure maintenance, and waste removal and water delivery issues. Roads around the city have been crumbling with piles of rubbish being dumped everywhere without being removed.
Surrounding townships have gone without water for weeks.
According to a local community newspaper, the last available financial records reveal that, as of June 2018, Msunduzi’s outstanding debt had soared to over R3bn.
Two weeks ago, Dube-Ncube announced that the department had directly intervened in the embattled and cash-strapped Mtubatuba and Richmond municipalities as a final attempt at saving them.
Last year national co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize ordered an investigation into allegations of administrative malfeasance at the municipality.
This was after he had received a letter from senior deputy city managers asking him to investigate the allegations which also included the financial crisis, depleted funds, the non-payment of service providers, suspension of senior staff indefinitely with pay and service strikes due to poor management.
Before placing Msunduzi under administration on Tuesday, Dube-Ncube held a closed door meeting with council officials to discuss its dire financial situation.
She revealed the beleaguered municipality was owed R3bn but declined to say how much it was left with in its coffers before announcing a section 139 intervention.
Section 139(1) of the constitution provides that when a municipality cannot or does not fulfill an executive obligation in terms of the constitution or legislation, the relevant provincial executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfillment of that obligation.
She said Msunduzi was put under administration because it had become dysfunctional due to its inability to hold its councillors accountable.
She also announced a raft of measures intended to bring about the long-term stability of the beleaguered and financially stressed municipality.
“We have just presented before the council measures to provide hands-on support and assist, not to point fingers and penalise, because we love and respect our capital city. Pietermaritzburg is the jewel of our province and we wish it to shine again.”
Dube-Ncube said it had become clear to the provincial government that Msunduzi was no longer able to guarantee the provision of a sustainable services to communities without an intervention from the national and provincial government.
She announced the appointment of a ministerial representative to be based at the municipality who will prepare and implement a comprehensive recovery plan for crisis-hit council.