I take this opportunity to thank all the media Houses represented at this briefing today, both from the Pretoria and the Cape Town Studios.
I greet all the Senior Government Officials present here and salute all those who are listening to the message we are presenting today.
We organised this briefing session so that we can explain the decision by the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Richard Baloyi, now speaking, where he indicated that the proposed merger of Metsimaholo and
Ngwathe Municipalities in the Free State have been suspended, in his words "stopped".
We will again use this briefing session to explain to the Nation what the Minister indicated in announcing his decision that it is not only aimed at dealing with the situation in the two affected areas, but that it applies to the Nation as a whole.
We will also explain at this briefing session what the Minister mean by referring the matter to a Task Team that he mentioned in pronouncing his decision.
We will also talk to the way forward in this regard, wherein we are going to mention the practical steps going forward in dealing with this matter as well as the timelines for doing so.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me now talk to the facts in this matter.
1. Whether the Minister has a mandate to make such a decision
As a Minister responsible for Local Government, I understood that the question before the Nation and related to the issue concerning the proposed merger of Metsimaholo and Ngwathe Municipalities is a matter concerning two Local Government structures, ... I had to act.
I received information that the people of Zamdela are protesting against the proposed merger of Metsimaholo and Ngwathe, and that, in the process, property was being damaged, there was random looting, people were not going to work, children were not going to school, and that there was a total collapse of order in the area, all on reasons associated with differences on a matter that had to do with two Local Government structures,...I had to act.
I was told by reliable sources that there was no-one person on the ground offering a solution to stop the carnage, except for our Police Officials, who were working so hard to manage the situation, but so limited in providing a solution, as what was demanded at the time was an answer in the area of Local Government, ... I had to act.
2. What the decision entails
The decision is meant to say that part of the preparatory activities towards the 2016 Local Government elections is suspended, .i.e that part that deals with the changes of municipal boundaries:
2.1 Until we are satisfied that the manner in which it is done is so transparent that it leaves no space for people to find faults in the process, or reduce that to a minimum.
2.2 Until the reasons given by those who propose the changes are thoroughly canvassed with the people to the extent that they see the advantages for such changes.
2.3 Under the circumstances that those who have to take the decisions to change the boundaries are satisfied that the people have been thoroughly consulted.
2.4 In a situation that the people are thoroughly prepared to participate in the processes that may lead to changes in the municipal boundaries, and they understand the situation well, given sufficient options,the right to appeal and treated fairly.
3. The task team
We announced a Ministerial Task Team last year and mandated it to address some of the issues we identified as needing attention in the demarcation process, in the areas of:
3.1 The reasons for considering changes of municipal boundaries every time we go for elections.
3.2 Whether the public participation process is managed in an environment where all the people have equal say in influencing possible changes in the Municipal boundary changes.
3.3 Whether the system is not open to manipulation where the changes may only suit certain individuals who may be more vocal or advantaged by their positions and status.
3.4 Whether all changes to municipal boundaries will lead to a better state of a municipality to deliver the services required by the people.
Having dealt with these, the Task Team would then report to the Minister with a view to provide the necessary remedies in case there are challenges.
The decision by the Minister in the case we are dealing with now, and particularly the involvement of the Task Team, is informed by the realisation that these questions, at a perception level or as a reality, exist.
4. Way forward
4.1 The Demarcation Task Team will lead in facilitating and monitoring that all what need to be done is indeed done in all the areas where there are possible changes in Municipal boundaries, working with all relevant structures, and accomplishing their work by end of February 2013.
4.2 The team will also facilitate and monitor that all unresolved demarcation-related questions are given due considerations by end of February 2013.
For convenience, I want to remind the Nation of those members of the Ministerial Task Team that I am referring to herein.
Ms Mpumi Mpofu (Chairperson)
Mr Landiwe Mahlangu
Ms Nomvula Mokonyane
Mr K Nawa
Mr Mkhululi Ncube
Mr Joe Maswanganyi
Mr Roelf Meyer.
We assigned technical experts who will provide the necessary support to this team and we believe that they will help the process.
Let us make Local Government a business for all of us and, in doing so, let us be serious!!!