Opposition parties in the Free State have stated that while they welcome the intervention of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Zweli Mkhize, into the affairs of municipalities in the province, they do not think things will change overnight as they believe many of the problems in the province lie with governance and a lack of adequate management, particularly in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.
“We do not believe that the current Executive Mayor is willing or able to lead this process, specifically as she ignored advice to this effect (from among others the DA), since 2017. She had wasted at least eighteen months and in the process allowed the metro to degenerate into the dysfunctional state in which the organisation finds itself,” the Democratic Alliance in the province said in a statement it issued on Saturday.
The party also expressed concern with Mkhize, who said that he believes that the metro has the ‘capacity to self-correct’. “The DA has advised the minister that the current Executive Council has proven that it can’t handle an organisation of this magnitude and in the interest of everybody in Mangaung, requested him to strengthen the metro with experienced “fixers” rather than to rely on the failed leadership at the helm,” the party further said.
Meanwhile, the EFF in the province’s Baba Sebolao, who is the Chief Whip, also shared the sentiments shared by the DA, saying had the ruling party put someone adequate in the Executive Mayor position, the metro and its citizens would not have the problems it now faces with regards to service delivery and the outcomes as tabulated in the Auditor-General Kimi Makhwetu’s report, which came out last month.
“I don’t believe anything will change, simply because all the while he kept emphasising that turning things around in the metro is everyone’s responsibility but when I asked him if the metro was now bankrupt and if that was perhaps the reason why Treasury was involved in formulating a rescue plan for Mangaung, he denied it and I got a sense that he was responding as an ANC member and not a minister. At the end of the day, that’s what he is–an ANC member. He will always try to protect his own,” Sebolao said.
In response to this, municipal spokesperson Qondile Khedama, said: “It’s premature for the opposition party to put the cart before the horse. They must afford the Executive Mayor a chance and only judge her on the basis of what they see. It’s unfortunate that opposition is already predicting negative outcome. This prediction comes at the time when we expecting everyone to rally around a common cause of ensuring that people of Mangaung have access to basic services.”
Mkhize visited Mangaung on Friday as part of Back to Basics campaign, which comprised an oversight visit to assist struggling municipalities and find solutions to problems in the metro that were highlighted in Auditor-General Kimi Makhwetu’s report last month.
The damning report showed that none of the 18 municipalities in the province received a clean audit and showed Mangaung as one of the Top 10 contributors to Unauthorized Expenditure in South Africa over the past three years.
During his visit, Mkhize urged all members of Council, regardless of their political parties as it is everyone’s responsibility to turn things around in the metro.
Problems in the province that Mkhize highlighted included financial mismanagement, governance and administration, a low revenue collection base as well as political fighting, among a few others.
The Cogta Minister gave struggling municipalities in the province four weeks to submit progress reports on how these municipalities intend to clean up after themselves, particularly with regards to electricity and water debt as well as the provision of quality service delivery.