Msunduzi municipality is on the verge of collapse and acting municipal manager Sizwe Hadebe is the central figure in its disintegration, trade union federation COSATU warned on Friday

COSATU treasurer in Pietermaritzburg Themba Magwaza said the union was outraged by the persistent provocation of workers and citizens by the municipality.

He cited a number of instances including the late payment of workers and the interruption in the supply of services.

According to COSATU, the political leadership – councillors and the ANC in Moses Mabhida – has failed to deal with problems facing the municipality. “Those who have been entrusted to exercise political oversight have failed the electorate and therefore they should vacate their positions.

“In this regard we call on the MEC of COGTA [Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs] to effect section 139 (1) (b) of the Constitution as [the municipality] has repeatedly failed to deliver services to the people of Pietermaritzburg,” said Magwaza. Section 139 (1) (b) of the Constitution obliges provinces to intervene in the financial crises of municipalities. Msunduzi municipality was put under administration in 2010 when it became cash-strapped and unable to pay employees. COSATU says the situation has gotten worse under Hadebe, especially this year.

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“We have in the past raised questions about how the unqualified, incompetent and lousy Mr Sizwe Hadebe was allowed to continue acting as the municipal manager for nearly ten months after the legally accepted acting period,” said Magwaza.

Extension of contract questioned

Hadebe was appointed in an acting capacity as municipal manager in June 2016 and in a recent meeting his contract was extended. According to COSATU, such a move is against the rules.

“This is clearly in stark contravention of the Municipal Systems Act which allows an acting accounting officer to remain in such a position for a maximum period of six months. The current arrogant acting municipal manager’s six-month period expired as far back as December 2016 but [he] remains in this position to this day,” Magwaza continued.

The extension of Hadebe’s contract was questioned by many and some believe that he is being groomed for the top post in the municipality as he has allegedly been shortlisted.

COSATU maintains that the problems at the municipality are overlooked by the political masters.

“We are now convinced that the current political thuggery in the local state enjoys the support of some elements of senior leadership owing to the deafening silence from the powers that be,” the union continued.

COSATU said some of the problems at the municipality which are a sign of deteriorating governance include:
• The collapse of collective bargaining
• Escalating levels of loitering and crime
• Mass dismissals of more than a thousand workers
• Continued labour unrest
• Skyrocketing electricity tariffs which the union likened to the pickpocketing of citizens
• The city’s inability to deal with filth and earning the dubious tag of being the dirtiest city in the country

“These are all signs of paralysis in the running of the affairs of the local state. There can clearly be no further degeneration beyond this point and the only natural solution would be to put this municipality under administration in terms of the law,” Magwaza concluded.

The municipality has had a string of problems including some residents going without water for weeks.