COSATU supports SAMWU’s call for defaulting municipalities in the North West Province to pay workers their salaries

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is appalled to learn that many municipalities across the North West are still failing to pay workers their salaries on time. We call on these municipalities to pay workers what is due to them, or we will work with SAMWU to take them to court. 

Current delinquent municipalities in the North West routinely defaulting on paying workers salaries and third party deductions owed to them in the North West include Ditsobotla, Mahikeng, Tswaing, Ngaka Modiri Molema, Madibeng, JB Marks, Mamusa as well as Lekwa Tamame.

Over the past year alone, the number of delinquent municipalities defaulting on paying their employees has risen from 20 in 4 provinces to 27 in 6 provinces nationally.  These municipalities are failing workers who are already dealing with a cost-of-living crisis that has been made worse by the current economic trends that have unleashed very harsh conditions for workers.

The Federation is disturbed by the apathetic and indifferent attitude of both the national and North West Provincial Government, in particular COGTA and SALGA if this still exist, on this matter.  The Federation has been calling on the government to come out with a turnaround strategy to revive about 90% of municipalities that experiencing financial distress for more than five years.

The Auditor-General has been warning that the accountability for financial and performance management continues to worsen in most municipalities.  Numerous reports show that many municipalities have been failing to account accurately for the financial transactions they have carried out and the money entrusted to them.   Many of these municipalities have previously been placed under administration with little tangible progress to show for it.

What is scandalous is that the National Treasury which has the ethical responsibility to see to it that the public money is used for its designated purposes and spent within the guidelines of existing legislation across the state has done little to arrest the deterioration. They have refused to impose a moratorium on the use of consultants in municipalities despite these consultants costing municipalities millions each year.

The Federation fully supports the call by SAMWU for the provincial governments to intervene in these municipalities, as per their Constitutional requirements. Although the national government does not control local government, it nevertheless has important powers. The national government bears the primary responsibility for national policy and legislation within which local government operates. Fiscal policy determines the level of financial flows to local government. Under fiscal austerity transfers to local government have declined.

We agree with SAMWU that a new funding model is needed to halt the rapid slide and collapse of local government this needs to include fast tracking the role out of the District Development Model.  It is clear we cannot sustain many of the 259 municipalities, many of whom lack a sufficient rate base to sustain them.  The deterioration in basic services is causing many companies to close and retrench workers, therefore, creating rural economic wastelands. 

In the past few years, total municipal debt nationally to Eskom has jumped from R40 billion to more than R60 billion with most of this owed by the 41 most distressed municipalities.  Equally scandalous are the billions of Rands earmarked for infrastructure being returned by these mismanaged municipalities, in particular in the North West, to the Treasury because their leadership has no clue on how to spend money once the taps for looting have been closed.

This deterioration of municipalities confirms the fact that there is little control over the corrupt abuse and manipulation of tenders and procurement of goods and services. We have consistently argued against the view that the tendering system and public-private partnerships are a panacea.  It is about time this issue of the tendering system is revisited and put on the table for discussion.  Treasury needs to move with speed to table the Public Procurement Bill at Parliament to enable it to be passed into law before the 2024 elections.

Government needs to act now and intervene in this crisis for across the North West.  COSATU will be working with SAMWU in these municipalities and in the Province to put pressure and compel the responsible Mayors, MECs and Premier to act and pay these municipal workers what is owed to them.  Such actions may include protests, pickets, the occupation of offices of these politicians and if needs be to take these municipalities to court to compel them to pay them what is owed to these workers.

Issued by COSATU     

For further information please contact:

Matthew Parks, COSATU Parliamentary Coordinator, 082 785 0687