20 October 1998

South Africa: Khayalami bodies to amalgamate functions

Johannesburg — The four local authorities making up the Khayalami metropolitan region in Gauteng would take steps early next year to begin amalgamating their functions into a single municipal body, Khayalami mayor Isaac Mahlangu said yesterday.

The region is made up of the Khayalami metropolitan council and the greater Midrand, Kempton Park/Tembisa and Lethabong (Edenvale/Modderfontein) local councils.

Mahlangu said he believed the pooling of scarce resources through the creation of a single city administration - or "megacity" - was the best way to achieve an efficient, cost-effective local government capable of addressing historical socioeconomic backlogs.

The four councils were expected to pass resolutions for the integration of their information technology, human resources, emergency services and planning and development functions over the next few months, he said.

Both the African National Congress-dominated Khayalami and greater Johannesburg regions have expressed a preference for single city governance after the next municipal elections. This has drawn the ire of opposition parties that claim the system will dilute local democracy and lead to ineffective, costly bureaucracies.

Johannesburg's five local authorities have already embarked on steps to merge various functions.

Gauteng local government departmental head Silas Mbedzi said yesterday metropolitan regions were prevented at present from merging their local councils entirely into single entities by the Local Government Transition Act, which guaranteed the autonomy of local councils until the next municipal elections.

They were not precluded, however, from applying to the provincial government for permission to amalgamate some of their functions.

Mahlangu was speaking at the first of a series of press briefings hosted by the provincial department to highlight progress made by local authorities in each of Gauteng's six regions. Mayors from Johannesburg, Pretoria, the Lekoa-Vaal region, as well as the Eastern and Western Gauteng Services Councils, are expected to hold briefings over the next two weeks.

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