It’s official: there is massive local government dysfunction in the North West province. There are those who might have suspected as much already; but now they’ve got the documents to prove it. The ruling party, meanwhile, says the crisis is caused by ANC in-fighting. By MANDY DE WAAL & THAPELO LEKGOWA.
Corruption, maladministration, lack of capacity, fraud, mismanagement, political instability. The litany of dysfunction goes on, and it’s detailed in a damning Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on the North West that has been seen by Daily Maverick.
The final progress report of a ten-month investigation by the SIU into local municipalities in the province exposes the full extent of widespread rot in local government, and lays the blame for the crisis squarely at the feet of those involved in political in-fighting.
The document exposes severe governance breaches in the Rustenburg and Madibeng local municipalities, as well as in local governments at Moses Kotane, Bojanala District, Ventersdorp, Greater Taung, Tswaing, Ramotshere Moiloa, Mahikeng, Dr Kenneth Kaunda District, Maquassi Hill, Moretele, Lekwa-Teemane, and Ngaka. Other local municipalities implicated in the investigation include Modiri Molema District, Ditsobotla, Kagisano, Kgetlengrivier, Ratlou, Dr Ruth Mompati District, and Naledi Local Municipality.
Daily Maverick viewed the report along with another document summarising the ‘State of Municipal Council Performance in the North West’. The ANC’s North West Provincial Executive Committee has been poring over these documents during the past few days. The summary of local government performance in the province doesn’t pull any punches about who’s to blame for the mess in the province: it states that the key cause is a divided ANC.
“Some of the challenges in councils in the province are direct consequence of either indecisiveness (or a) lack of cohesiveness on the side of the leadership collectives at various levels,” the municipal performance report reads. “ANC leadership at provincial and regional levels has on some occasions failed to resist the temptation of pursuing factional and personal preferences over ANC policy and procedures; such leadership deficiencies [have] in most instances led to situations of confusion, lack of trust and confidence on these structures.”
Aside from the SIU investigation, the Madibeng and Moretele local municipalities are being investigated by the Public Protector. At Madibeng, Thuli Madonsela’s office is probing allegations of corruption, abuse of power, maladministration, nepotism, and tender irregularities, as well as numerous service delivery complaints. The inquiries into bad governance at the Moretele municipality include allegations that the local mayor is using his own company to do municipal work, that the quality of construction projects is poor, that R1,6 million has gone missing, and that there is endemic maladministration.
The problems in local government in the North West go back as far as 2009, when a task team was established by the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to do an audit of beleaguered municipalities, and to develop a strategy to turn the situation around. The audit identified irregularities, which were handed to the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations. Arrests were made and court cases got underway. In the wake of this, the North West Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs approached the SIU, which led to the unit’s 2010 investigation of the North West.
Cogta Chief of Staff, Mpho Lekgoro, confirmed that a new task team had been appointed to investigate the more recent rot. “There is a task team that the minister has put in place, and they haven’t even as yet finalised their work or reported back. We can’t say more or comment because we have to wait for the report to be tabled with the minister,” said Lekgoro.
However, the North West report on local government performance, obtained by Daily Maverick, complains that the minister of Cogta “has not presented his task team report to council yet and (that) this creates a situation of perpetual paralysis and indecisiveness from government.”
Asked to respond, Lekgoro said: “The task team will report to the minister as soon as they have looked into the situation. The task team was established late last year, but I have no clue and I don’t remember if there were any specific time lines that were put in place. There is massive work there that needs to be done – from the administration to the political in-fighting and speaking to the community as well. The task team has been speaking to local stakeholders and people have been raising grievances, but I can’t comment on that issue of Cogta causing ‘perpetual paralysis’. It is just an opinion,” he said.
Daily Maverick asked the ruling party to comment on allegations that ANC faction fighting was paralysing local government in the North West, while fuelling bad governance. Provincial ANC spokesman for the North West, Kenny Morolong, declared this wasn’t news to him. “We have never disaffirmed the fact that there are challenges in the province, and these challenges relate to behaviour patterns that are inconsistent with organisation policy, culture convention and tradition,” Morolong said.
“The province will convene an ANC governance lekgotla with the intention of zooming into this misconduct – which is not only foreign to the organisation – but which in our view is unacceptable. We have begun a process of engaging our representatives with the view of making sure that there is a close working relationship between our deployees and government,” said Morolong, who added that the ANC would effect change “in the not too far distant future”. The meeting of provincial ANC brass will take place in February, directly after the ANC’s national ‘lekgotla’.
Morolong said the ANC provincial executive committee had already met on the weekend beginning Friday 18 January 2012, to “successfully dissect” the resolutions that came out of Mangaung. “This meeting was a resounding success, which is an indication that the members of the ANC are beginning to find each other, and this bodes very well.” The provincial ruling party spokesperson said the cause of divisions within the party could be attributed to conduct that was ‘alien’ to the organisation. “Members of the ANC are generally expected to behave in a particular way, and once they deviate from the ANC’s expectations this foreign behavioural conduct creates problems,” he said.
Morolong stressed that the government’s record in resolving disputes in Africa and the ruling party’s “undisputed success rate with regards to conflict resolution” was indicative that the former liberation movement was equal to the task of sorting out personality and other conflicts in the North West that were undermining good government.
On the matter of corruption, fraud and criminality, Morolong said that these matters would be handed to the police. “We can’t even look at who perpetrators of corruption are. This is a matter for the police and the judicial system. People who are found to be in the wrong must be prosecuted with the full extent of the law.”
For people who depend on local government services, the cruel reality of the ANC dysfunction manifests in nothing getting done. Unionist and political activist Peter Banda, from Madibeng (Brits), said faction fighting in the ruling party was the de facto state of play. “In-fights in Madibeng are the order of the day. We have tried to take up some of the issues around corruption, but how does a municipality go bankrupt twice in one year? Every time one takes on issues, all those who benefit from the irregularities stand together and label us as criminals,” said Banda, adding that critics were seen to be acting against the ANC.
“Even the smallest of things budgeted for was not achieved by this municipality, hence we had to go out in the streets a number of times last year (2012), not that it helped. We have a serious shortage of water; for those who have water, it is not clean. The issue of dirty water was meant to be addressed a long time ago but is not happening. The quality of the RDP houses they build is bad. The roads and infrastructure is not looking good at all,” Banda added.
The activist said the people of Madibeng were badly affected by Apartheid and that the ANC was manipulating that pain to sustain party loyalty. “They (the ANC) would normally ask in meetings if people want to be ruled by whites. Nothing happens here because everyone (in local government) is looking at discrediting the other. Those who have resources at their disposal will call meetings but the meetings are structured in a way that does not allow any different views to be presented,” Banda said.
And so a long and painful checklist of local government dysfunction in the North West is laid bare, well covered by these reports and multi-pronged investigations. But will the situation change any time soon? Banda is not that optimistic. DM
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