Gauteng small towns may become super city

Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa has put forward a plan to transform Gauteng's scattered and struggling municipalities into a super city.

The plan is contained in the African National Congress's discussion documents to be debated at the ninth provincial conference in November.

On Monday, Shilowa, as ANC provincial chairperson, and the party's provincial secretary, David Makhura, revealed that struggling municipalities could be a thing of the past.

They have announced a plan to merge struggling municipalities into existing metros and create another one. This means Gauteng would have four metro councils: Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and the new one.

With the approval of the Demarcation Board, the ANC plan would see an end to districts such as the West Rand; Sedibeng and Motsweding and municipalities including Merafong, Mogale City, Westonaria, Randfontein, Midvaal, Emfuleni, Lesedi, Kungwini and Nokeng Tsa Taemane.

"We want one integrated metro city. We need to have metros that will be self-sufficient and manage their affairs in terms of development," Shilowa said.

For instance, he said, the City of Johannesburg was a megacity while the West Rand was a district with four municipalities.

"It is possible that we may end up with four or five metros. However, the Demarcation Board will assist in this regard."

The district councils had different challenges that were hampering development and they were also situated in poor areas where they could not sustain revenue, the premier added.

He said, for instance, that money collected from Mogale City had to be shared with district councils.

"If they are amalgamated, this will strengthen metros' capacity and the councillors will be able to deliver services to the people.

"We want to strengthen and consolidate the metros. Then we can look at whether they should add more responsibilities, such as metro police work."

According to Makhura, about 82 percent of the population lives in metros and are self-sustaining, while the districts and municipalities have relatively small budgets.

"It is difficult to service them. The plan has still to be discussed with the municipalities to be affected, local government, and the ANC at national level and national government," Makhura said.

He said the City of Johannesburg generated about R16-billion, Ekurhuleni R17-billion and Tshwane R9-million.

The amalgamations would not be easy because some mayors would lose their jobs, Makhura said.

The plan has been endorsed by Provincial and Local Government MEC Qedani Mahlangu, who sits on the ANC's provincial executive committee. The discussion document has been circulated to all the structures of the ANC.

"After we have finalised the cross-boundaries, we will then look at these municipalities. The government department concerned will implement that plan," Mahlangu said.

"The entire plan will make sure that municipalities become effective and efficient. We want to make sure that they have equitable shares from the national government and that they deliver on key services," she added.

The Democratic Alliance has responded that the metros have not worked in delivering key services.

Brian Goodall, the DA leader in the province, said: "I don't think the metro system has worked. It has not reduced costs, as it was meant to.

"We have to move away from centralising local government to greater decentralisation. Local government is best placed locally."

Article by: Themba Sepotokele and Moipone Malefane - www.iol.co.za