The Amathole District Municipality remains on its knees and is under immense pressure to find a lasting solution to its financial problems. The municipality appeared before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Co-operative governance last week. It told the committee it was bankrupt and might not be able to pay staff salaries by the end of May. Some of the reasons put forward for the current situation, is a bloated salary bill and the unlawful recategorisation of the municipality from a category six to a seven.
The financial strain has a negative bearing on the municipality’s operations. It is unable to maintain its infrastructure and is struggling too meet its obligation to pay staff salaries, which amount to R65 million per month. Nonetheless, the Executive Mayor, Khayile Manele, says turnaround strategy is on the cards.
“We want the municipality to go back to grade 6, that is why we have taken the matter for judicial review, so that the municipality can go back to grade 6 not grade 7 and again we went to council so that we can amend the policies that give unnecessary benefits. But unfortunately, the workers took us to court and the court ruled in favour of the workers and that matter was reversed so we are hoping to take that matter up and review those policies,” says Manele.
The unions representing workers at the municipality are unhappy with the situation. Dumisani Magagula from SAMWU and Lubabalo Ngqunge from Imatu say more needs to be done.
“If the initial support that has been granted by COGTA nationally and provincially is not effective then they must go to another one which is 139(b) whereby an independent somebody that will come and evaluate books and decisions of the financial status of Amathole. The kind of administration where the current municipal manager will not be head of administration in that municipality,” they say.
The Portfolio Committee requested the COGTA MEC, Xoile Nqatha, to provide regular updates on the intervention at the ADM. The Eastern Cape government has invoked section 139 (5) (a) of the constitution to assist the turnaround. This section requires the provincial government to impose a recovery plan to secure a municipality’s ability to meet its obligations.