DA says district model is risky

Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Dr Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma.

Brink said while the plan is being rolled out, government has been silent on pressing issues in local government, including the electricity crisis in municipalities that are defaulting on their Eskom debt.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says it is still premature to identify the successes and failures of government’s district development model – a turnaround plan for the country’s ailing municipalities.

Cabinet approved the district development model in August 2019 and it was piloted in OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, and Waterberg District Municipality.

Dlamini-Zuma said the establishment phase of the plan included the development of profiles for the three pilots, soliciting government and parastatal projects, programmes, and expenditure in the three pilot municipaities.

She was responding to a parliamentary question from DA MP Cilliers Brink who wanted details on the district plan.

Dlamini-Zuma said other objectives included the soliciting of private sector investment where possible, intergovernmental engagement, and the hosting of business and community engagements.

Also top on the list was the conducting of a skills gap and institutional capacity analysis, Dlamini-Zuma said.

Brink said the DA believes it would be far more premature to implement yet another grand ministerial scheme to fix local government without any evidence that it will work.

“In August the DA cornered the Minister at a Cogta portfolio committee, and she said she would give the portfolio committee the information supporting the decision to adopt the district model beyond its pilot phase. Now it seems that this information doesn’t exist, and that the district model was going to be implemented regardless of the information that came from pilot sites,” he said.

In July, the DA announced a government official leaked a “top secret” draft document from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which proposed centralised control of municipalities through a structure similar to the National Coronavirus Command Council.

Brink likened the district development model to a coup d’état.

The 46-page document bears a logo purportedly of the department, is marked “top secret” and “draft 5” and is titled “South Africa Economic Recovery Plan for Municipalities in Response to Covid-19”. No indication is given as to who its author is.

The document deals with the country’s dire economic situation, particularly how it relates to municipalities and proposes the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportune time for a restructuring of the government and economy.

But President Cyril Ramaphosa defended the governmental plan as a means to improve service delivery.

Brink said while the plan is being rolled out, government has been silent on pressing issues in local government, including the electricity crisis in municipalities that are defaulting on their Eskom debt.

“A bill aimed at improving the intervention of provincial and national government in dysfunctional municipalities has also been languishing in the minister’s department,” he said.

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