Governance monitor PSAM has voiced support for the secondment of Manager of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality Ted Pillay to Makana; however, they have cautioned that the three months Pillay will be based in the municipality are not enough to solve the institution’s systemic problems.
In a move hailed across party divides as positive, Pillay has been seconded to Makana for three months as of Thursday 1 February. In the first full Council meeting of 2018 on Wednesday, both ANC and DA councillors called for officials, politicians and residents alike to get behind Pillay in his efforts to put the embattled municipality back on its feet.
The official announcement came soon after a discussion on the municipality’s qualified audit on the basis of numerous non-compliance issues.
Also in this week’s council meeting was confirmation of a 6% increase in the remuneration packages of councillors, as well as the drought tearing into the district’s resources.
In her opening address to the Council, Mayor Nomhle Gaga responded to claims by the Concerned Citizens to Save Makana (CCSM) group as reported in Grocott’s Mail and other media that she had misled citizens regarding the appointment of an acting municipal manager.
“I will never mislead this Council,” Gaga said, saying that the absence of certain key officials from May 2017 had slowed the process of getting an acting MM seconded to Makana.
In a statement issued after last week’s Council meeting, the municipality said that after numerous attempts to get a secondment for Section 154 from the Department of Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) for Makana, the municipality together with Sarah Baartman District Municipality had formally agreed to that Pillay would be seconded.
“This comes after the Council rejected the person seconded by COGTA due to exorbitant expenses he required,” the statement said. “It is with great excitement to announce that Mr Pillay will be the Acting Municipal Manager for the next three months, starting on 01 February 2018 until 30 April 2018, with all his expenses paid for by the district.”
He would report to Council and would be expected to assist the institution in the appointment of the Municipal Manager; improvement of revenue collection; assessment of major outstanding creditors; improving staff morale; reducing excessive overtime; improving service delivery and lobbying for funding.
Local Government researcher at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) Lungile Penxa warned that the three-month period of Pillay’s stay would be too short to address systemic problems.
Penxa also noted with concern that under Pillay’s leadership, the entire District had underspent and so service delivery through capital projects had been delayed in the first half of 2017/18.
“However we remain positive,” Penxa said. “We further hope for improvements in Makana Municipality since the District Municipal Manager will be physically here. We hope that Makana Municipality will be able to implement his strategies even after April 2018 for the institution to improve going forward.”
DA spokesperson Mlindi Mhanha said the party was relieved at Pillay’s appointment and was of the opinion that he was the best person for the job.
“We believe in his abilities and his track record speaks for itself. We are however concerned that three months may not be sufficient for him to turn the municipality around and a permanent MM must be appointed sooner rather than later,” Nhanha said.
“We call on residents, councillors, staff and labour unions to support Mr Pillay during his tenure at the helm of the administration.”
The DA in Makana, towards the end of last year, urged the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Fikile Xasa, to dissolve the Council and hold fresh elections within 90 days. They then retracted their call on the basis of Mayor Nomhle Gaga’s assurance that Pillay would be seconded to Makana.
ANC Secretary for the Sarah Baartma region Scara Njadayi said the party’s Regional Executive Committee would continue to assess the situation in Makana and would give guidance in efforts to stabilize the municipality’s administration.
“We wish to encourage all government departments and local stakeholders to play a role in finding a solution to the overarching challenges that confront the ailing Municipality,” Njadayi said. “We wish to appeal to the councillors and workers in the municipality to… give support to the intervention, which is bringing hope to the people of Grahamstown and the surrounding areas within Makana.”
Last month, in media statements and during a public protest, the CCSM red-flagged Mayor Nomhle Gaga, accusing her of misleading the public. They had put their call for the appointment of a turnaround specialist and dissolution of Council on hold on the basis of Pillay’s imminent secondment.
They cried foul when it emerged that the request for Pillay to be seconded had not appeared on any agenda for the District Council by the end of last year.
Commenting last week on Pillay’s subsequent secondment, spokesperson Ron Weissenberg said, “After enormous pressure on Provincial and National government since June 2017, the CCSM welcomes Mr Pillay and will support initiatives aimed at addressing the issues of our failed municipal system.
“We are hopeful that Mr. Pillay will not repeat the mistakes of the Mayor and her troika by failing to actively engage with our established civil society bodies.”