SAMWU cautiously welcomes National Treasury intervention in struggling municipalities.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) notes and cautiously welcomes the decision by the National Treasury to intervene and assist struggling municipalities in the country. In delivering the Mid Term Budget Policy Statement, Minister Gogongwana announced that the National Treasury will be assisting 43 municipalities that are facing financial crisis and a further 100 that are on the brink of financial challenges.
The Minister further indicated that there are specified expected causes of actions that will have to be taken by Provincial Governments where there are struggling municipalities. The Minister was however not properly briefed by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) of the magnitude of the challenges faced by the country’s municipalities. According to COGTA’s local government barometer, 64 municipalities are currently dysfunctional, 111 on the brink of dysfunctionality while only 16 out of 257 are stable.
The challenges faced by these municipalities are financial in nature, in Kopanong Local Municipality in the Free State, workers have not been paid their salaries for three months. In several municipalities across the country, money for third parties such as medical aid, pension fund and funeral policies is deducted from workers’ salaries but this money is never paid to the third parties, resulting in policy lapses.
The challenges faced by municipalities indeed necessitates the need for intervention by National and Provincial governments to ensure that municipalities are stabilised to ensure continued and improved service delivery to the county’s residents. We have previously seen Provincial Governments intervening in municipalities through Section 139 yet this has not the root causes of the challenges faced by municipalities.
Of great concern to us is the austerity measures that have been taken by the National Treasury in all spheres of government, including municipalities. We have already seen exemption applications from the recently salary and wage collective agreement that was concluded in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) with some municipalities arguing that based on the financial recovery plans that they have received from National Treasury, such municipalities should not implement the salary and wage collective agreement.
We are therefore concerned by the nature of the course of action that the National Treasury has for the country’s ailing municipalities. We cannot sit back and allow the National Treasury to undermine collective bargaining and deny workers their salary increases which are contractually due to them.
If the National Treasury’s immediate task is building capable local government that delivers services efficiently and effectively as claimed by the Minister in delivering the budget, the National Treasury should have prioritised the funding of municipalities. It cannot be correct that the country’s 257 municipalities received less than 10 % of government expenditure and are expected to deliver basic services to almost 60 million residents.
We will therefore as SAMWU be cautiously watching the nature of the cause of action that will be taken by the National Treasury and Provincial Government. We will oppose any cause of action that seeks to reverse the gains of workers, in particular their salary increases.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat
Dumisane Magagula General Secretary (076 580 4029) Or Papikie Mohale National Media Officer(073 710 0356)