A year the 2011 local government polls, the DA claims it has put to rights much of the “damage” wreaked by the ANC in the 13 municipalities it snatched.
Most of the new DA-run municipalities were off to a good start, “cleaning out the stables they inherited” and salvaging municipal finances, DA leader Helen Zille said in a report on the party’s achievements in the past year. She added that it took some months for the full extent of the “damage” to become apparent.
The DA won 13 new councils – Bitou, Breede Valley, Drakenstein, George, Hantam, Hessequa, Karoo Hoogland, Knysna, Laingsburg, Langeberg, Nama Khoi, Saldanha Bay and Witzenberg.
Zille said the outgoing administrations were, as a rule, anything but co-operative.
“Issues included missing documents, break-ins, harassment and theft, as well as damaged, broken or stolen equipment.”
In many cases, she said, these actions were not simply vindictive, but apparently designed to destroy records, including clues to corruption.
The four biggest new DA municipalities – Breede Valley, Drakenstein, George and Saldanha Bay – were nearing financial collapse.
“Unaffordable excesses like international travel, food for councillors, mayors’ cars and, most costly of all, jobs for pals, meant that most of these councils faced a crisis of liquidity,” Zille said.
The new DA administrations were also hamstrung when taking corrective action, as all had to operate using budgets passed by the previous ANC administrations in the last few days before elections.
“In three municipalities – Bitou, Drakenstein and Hantam – the last ANC budget did not even cover staff salaries for the next year. Under the new DA administration all three were forced to take emergency measures… just to pay staff.”
Breede Valley’s financial crisis epitomised the situation at all these local councils.
Zille said the ANC had continued to spend freely, despite the recession.
“When the DA came to office, our first business was to cut this undisciplined expenditure on ‘nice-to-haves’. In the three largest new DA municipalities, Breede Valley, Drakenstein and George alone, these cuts saved some R140 million in the first year (2011/12). This process continues into the second year of DA governance.”
Zille added that one of the biggest inherited problems in municipalities was the blurring of the critical distinction between party and state.
“Many municipal managers under the ANC display openly partisan behaviour,” she charged. She made reference to a Saldanha case where the municipal manager – a former ANC party secretary for the Boland region – appointed a number of party members to the municipal housing and social services departments. “Despite the 18 officials in its housing department, Saldanha Bay constructed only 646 houses in 2010, while DA-run Swartland, a smaller municipality with only two housing officials, built over 2 000.”
Zille accused the ANC of treating municipalities as employment agencies, but said the new DA administrations had already demonstrated that impartial and honest administration was the key to delivery.
But she conceded that it would take a long time to turn around the affected municipalities, before people started to see and feel results.
Asked to comment, ANC’s metro chairman Xolani Sotashe rubbished Zille’s report card as yet another DA public relations exercise.
There was a forensic investigation into shady deals involving officials of the city of Cape Town, he said, “but as expected, the DA remains quiet about it”.
Sotashe added the city had for two consecutive years failed to spend its budget, “and it appears that for the current financial year the DA-led city will again have an under-spending problem”.
He pointed out that Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille conceded last week that there were continuing inequalities.
“The DA was going around saying that the city was on the brink of collapse when they took over, when in fact the municipality had well over R2 billion in reserve in 2006.”