While all political parties expressed concern about the looting of municipal resources during the debate on the Department of Cogta’s adjusted budget, the ANC attacked opposition MPs and Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma defended cadre deployment.
Dlamini-Zuma presented the adjusted budget to a mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Wednesday morning.
In her budget speech, she said: “We cannot pretend that all municipalities are in good shape and simply require complementary plans, capabilities and capacities.”
“The Auditor-General’s report is a reminder of that reality. We take this opportunity to congratulate the 20 municipalities that consistently perform well in the audits. We will work with the Treasury [which has] the financial oversight role to support municipalities,” she added.
ANC MP and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Cogta, Faith Muthambi, said some municipalities were in the spotlight because of how they were spending Covid-19 funds, and she urged the National Treasury to intensify monitoring.
Incidents of malfeasance
Opposition MPs referred to long lists of alleged incidents of malfeasance at municipalities.
DA MP Haniff Hoosen said: “Instead of fighting the spread of the virus and protecting our citizens, instead of fighting the high rate of corruption and looting, our Minister, Dlamini-Zuma has been fighting against zol and alcohol.”
“The corrupt politicians and officials in government departments are making every effort to ensure that this disaster does not go to waste. They are milking the state for every penny and not a single person has been thrown in prison for this, because our minister is busy fighting zol and alcohol.”
Nothing left to steal
He called on Dlamini-Zuma to refocus and take immediate steps to stop corruption at a municipal level before there is “nothing left to steal”.
EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi said municipal services were supposed to be the last line of defence against Covid-19, but this was not the case.
“Our people are on their own,” she said.
She referred to the Auditor-General’s report on the grim state of affairs of municipal finances and added that the adjusted budget would only be a green light for looters to continue.
IFP MP Bhekizizwe Luthuli said his party remained concerned about the poor oversight of local governments and that the public was left with very little faith that municipalities would not loot the public purse.
FF Plus MP Michal Groenewald said taxpayers would not keep paying if they didn’t get services.
ACDP MP Wayne Thring referred to corruption as a “greedy, corrupt and fraudulent virus” that must be dealt with speedily.
“If this is not done, it will leave more casualties than Covid-19.
DA MP Cilliers Brink said one of the reasons why municipalities struggled was because “for decades, these municipalities have appointed and promoted people based on their political loyalty, instead of competence and expertise”.
“But instead of hearing the minister reject cadre deployment in no uncertain terms, last month she was reported as saying that municipalities only had to appoint the ‘right cadres for the job,'” Brink said.
ANC MP Bheki Hadebe said the ANC was not “aloof or in denial” about the local government’s challenges but unlike the opposition, it was not going to focus on problems, but on solutions.
He said Hoosen’s remarks exposed his “narrow white capital interests”.
“As the ANC, we refuse to see a country of drunkards and addicts,” he said.
He questioned why Mkhaliphi blamed ANC governments and referred to one incident where an EFF ward councillor was allegedly involved.
“As the ANC, we will expose you for who you are,” he said, eliciting interjections from EFF MPs.
“They must stop behaving like popcorn. When the pot gets hot, they jump up and down,” he said, eliciting even more interjections.
“At least attack us on things we are responsible for,” she said.
Turning to Brink’s comments on cadre deployment, she said: “Let me tell you, honourable Brink, cadre does not mean unprofessional.”
“I don’t think you should say we mustn’t employ the right cadre because it means it will not be a professional person. That cannot be true and it cannot be right.”
Turning to Hoosen, she said: “You know, honourable Hoosen, I used to have a lot of respect for you as an honourable member, but today I have lost that respect.”
She said the government was trying to balance saving lives and livelihoods.
“We care about our people’s lives,” she said.