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Law meant to prevent collapse of municipalities seldom used, says report

A Pari study on Section 139 interventions, which are implemented when there are financial crises in municipalities, shows that the legislation is seldom used, leading to the total collapse of municipalities.

The Amahlathi Local Municipality logo. Picture: amahlathi.gov.za

JOHANNESBURG – A new research report by the Public Affairs Research Institute (Pari) said that the country's crisis-ridden municipalities would be in a better state if Section 139 interventions were implemented timeously.

The paper was based on research undertaken for the National Treasury in 2018 to assess the effectiveness of the intervention framework that empowered provinces and national government to rescue troubled municipalities.

The appalling state of governance and financial controls in dozens of municipalities across the country is no secret nor is its impact on the lives of the citizens whose access to basic services such as water and electricity are jeorpadised by multiple factors, including poor and deteriorating finances.

Yet, the Public Affairs Research Institute’s study on Section 139 interventions showed that the legislation was seldom implemented, leading to the total collapse of municipalities.

Head of research at Pari, and co-author of the report, Dr Tracy Ledger said: “When the National Council of Provinces and other entities are talking about ‘oh well, we must only intervene in local government if it’s an absolute last resort’ but this is completely incorrect because Section 139 was written precisely to prevent [the] complete collapse of municipalities.”

Interventions under Section 139 are initiated when there are financial crises in municipalities.

But as seen in the report, in almost all the cases, provincial executive committees stepped in when municipalities were already in a state of complete operational and financial collapse or on the edge thereof.