Demarcation board denies pressure

The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) has denied bowing to political pressure in scrapping the merger of the Metsimaholo and Ngwathe municipalities in the Free State.

The objective of the re-determination of municipal boundaries was to reverse the settlements created for apartheid, MDB chairman Landiwe Mahlangu said in Pretoria. “In essence, the key aspect of the re-determination of municipal boundaries is to deepen democracy,” he said.

“The principle and objective that guides the board was our obligation of reversing and ensuring that the apartheid spatial landscape is gradually done away with so that all South Africans enjoy democracy.”

Earlier in the day, Mahlangu said a mooted merger of the Metsimaholo and Ngwathe municipalities had been abandoned because the proposal did not comply with legal requirements.

“After investigations and consultations, the board was convinced that the proposals do not comply with the criteria as set in the legislation, and therefore fails,” he said. “The board has taken a decision not to further pursue the merger of Metsimaholo and Ngwathe and other various local municipalities,” he said.

There have been a series of violent protests against the merger in Zamdela, Sasolburg. Mahlangu said the proposed merger of the Midvaal and Emfuleni municipalities, in Gauteng, was still on track. He urged parties opposed to the merger to file written responses to the board.

“We call upon those people who have views about this re-determination to do so in the time frames that have been given. We want to assure the stakeholders that the board will look at those [objections] before we make a final determination,” he said.

If the objections were compelling, the board could decide against the merger. The board would not be “shy to withdraw”, he said. Last year, the Democratic Alliance urged Gauteng residents to raise their objections to the proposed merger. DA local government spokesman Fred Nel said the DA objected to the amalgamation because property, water and electricity rates were likely to increase as a result.

“New metros will be much more expensive to run as officials, councillors and mayors are paid much more than in local municipalities.” He claimed that municipal managers in Gauteng’s metropolitan areas earned more than President Jacob Zuma. The move was also likely to negatively affect service delivery.

The DA was concerned that the MDB was acting in the political interests of the African National Congress. This was because Midvaal, which is the only DA-run municipality in the province, would cease to exist if the proposals were passed. “Since the ANC could not defeat the DA at the ballot box, they are now using the demarcation board to do its dirty work for it,” Nel said at the time.



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