Civil society organisations and the DA have called for action after Parliament tore to shreds Makana’s senior leadership during an oversight visit last week.
The Makhanda Legends anti-corruption action group used the Standing Committee on Public Accounts’ oversight visit to Makana Municipality on Wednesday 5 May 2021 as an opportunity to ensure their concerns reached the ears and eyes of Parliament. The DA afterwards said SCOPA’s questions and comments had vindicated its call for dissolution and an independent investigation. And the Makana Residents Association called on SCOPA to support the January 2020 judgment ordering Makana to be put under administration.
The Makhanda Legends was established in August 2020 when the South African Council of Churches launched its anti-corruption campaign. They said seven months after they handed a petition to her Office, they had received no response or even acknowledgement from Council’s Speaker.
Last Wednesday, Makhanda Legends co-founders Archbishop Nkosinathi Ngesi and veteran Struggle activist Sky Albany stood up in the Council Chamber where the SCOPA MPs were grilling Makana officials. Introducing themselves, they handed over a letter and a petition to SCOPA Chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
GMDirect can confirm that the petition was the same as the one handed over to Council Speaker Yandiswa Vara via her secretary Noluthando Santi on 8 October 2020.
“This petition was ignored,” Albany told the SCOPA Chair. “We are glad to have the opportunity to deliver it directly into your hands.”
The letter to Hlengwa said the group had tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to find solutions for problems faced by the Makhanda community.
“We were elated to learn that you will be arriving in our municipality to come and assess this crisis as our SCOPA. We hope that our demands will [receive]your favourable attention.”
The accompanying petition begins, “We as the Makhanda Legends, born and bred in this Makana Municipality, asre concerned about the continued maladministration of Makana Municipality… We have a moral and ethical responsibility to hold those in office accountable.”
Among their demands are that former Corporate Services Director Nomthandazo Mazwayi return the amount by which she was allegedly overpaid; that the Kabuso forensic investigative report be implemented; that there be transparency in the recruitment and selection of staff; and that there be accountability and consequence management for officials found to have committed wrongdoings.
Archbishop Ngesi is head of one of South Africa’s largest churches, the Ethiopian Episcopal Church, an affiliate of the SACC. Its headquarters are in Makhanda. The Legends group aligns itself with the SACC.
Explaining why the Church was stepping in, Ngesi said in an interview at the time, “Local government is the site of service delivery – and where service delivery has to be fixed. It is also where livelihoods are made, or broken. If local government is not functioning properly, it’s the duty of the church to call on it to properly serve people.”
DA Councillor Cary Clark said SCOPA’s visit to Makana had vindicated the party’s call for the municipality to be [put under administration]forthwith, and for a comprehensive independent investigation into the causes of the municipality’s dysfunctionality to be initiated.
“We are of the opinion that it further highlights the need for a precautionary suspension of the Municipal Manager,” Clark said.
The DA had submitted this as a motion to council in August 2020.
“The DA position on this matter is based on two audit disclaimers by the Auditor-General, and the lack of any meaningful performance monitoring of senior staff members – including the Municipal Manager,” Clark said. “This makes it near impossible to assess and hold officials accountable for the lack of service delivery and the non-compliance with various court orders.”
SCOPA had been scathing in their assessment of the municipality, identifying a number of failures, including the disclaimers, water supply problems and the use of consultants to prepare annual financial statements at great cost.
SCOPA issued an instruction to the Municipal Manager that all performance agreements must be signed within 30 days, or he would be held in contempt of Parliament.
“The DA reiterates its call for Makana Municipality [to be put under administration], in line with the ruling in the Grahamstown High Court in early 2020,” Clark said.
Engaging with Provincial government
Makana Residents Association Chairperson Sally Price-Smith said, “SCOPA chairperson MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa’s final words to the Mayor in respect of the Municipal Manager’s performance, ‘shape up or ship out’, could not be more welcome to Makana residents, although it is belated.
“In October 2018 a 22 000-signature petition calling for dissolution of council and full administration was delivered to the Eastern Cape legislature. To date no formal response to this petition has ever been received resulting in the UPM taking successful legal action to this effect.
“This judgment is unfortunately being appealed and implementation suspended.”
Price-Smith said Makana Resident’s Association (previously GRA) had been engaging with provincial and national government about the state of management and lack of oversight by council for many years.
“We have made endless representations to both national and local CoGTA, State Premier and the President’s office, both pre and post the administration process lead by Pam Yako in 2015,” Price-Smith said.
“Last year the AG’s report went backwards to a “disclaimer” and this year’s report is expected to show no improvement which can be interpreted as a decline in all management systems, not only finance and accounting.
“The result is an exponential decline in services delivered and increase in costs. Chaotic and missing systems enable misuse of resources at all levels.
“On behalf of all residents of Makana MRA appeals to SCOPA to use its influence and support the court’s judgment. Urgently support the appointment of a competent and well supported Administrator to Makana Municipality. Many will climb aboard and help right the ship.”
Makana Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa said of SCOPA’s visit, “They came here to do their work, and they were thorough in their job, as they always are. If they hadn’t been scheduled to meet with the Premier at 7pm, I think we could all have been there until 10pm.”
Mpahlwa noted that SCOPA had been highly critical of the accountability and management practices within the institution. “These are issues we have been raising all the time. I think this is a wake-up call to our officials.”
Council’s Chief Whip Luyanda Nase said, “As the African National Congress in Makana council we welcomed the visit from SCOPA in the municipality and noted the critical issues that they have raised. We commit that we will follow up on all the issues pointed out.”
These included the breakdown of the working relations between the Mayor and the Municipal Manager; the upgrade of the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works; performance agreements; and the audit outcomes. Of the latter, Nase said these highlighted “a number of issues that suggest the collapse of administration, administrative principles, and non-adherence to the enabling legislations and regulations.
“Which in actual sense leads to anarchy and lack of accountability.”
Nase said they had instructed the Municipal Manager through the Office of the Mayor to come up with a plan to address all the issues raised by Scopa – “be it in the Audit report or the general administration of the institution.
“It cannot be business as usual where incompetence and none performance is tolerated,” Nase said. “People must shape up or ship out.”
- Updated 3.15pm on Tuesday 11 May to include the response of the ANC caucus.