25 January 2013

South Africa: Demarcations Board Says No Need to Panic

Pretoria — As calm returned to Zamdela informal settlement in Sasolburg on Friday, the Municipal Demarcations Board appealed for calm in communities insisting that no decision will be taken to amend municipal boundaries without proper consultations with all affected parties.

"By law we have to consult and that is what we have been doing and what we will continue to do, There is no need for panic and violence," the board's deputy chairperson Nondumiso Gwayi said in Pretoria.

The Municipal Demarcation Board is an independent body tasked with determining municipal boundaries across the country. Every five-year municipal electoral period, the board needs to undertake a review of the geographical location of municipalities and make recommendations if changes were needed that would allow for improvement in service delivery.

The board had held a meeting with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi in the wake of violent protests in the Sasolburg area over a proposed merger of the Metsimaholo municipality in Sasolburg with the Ngwathe municipality near Parys.

Residents, who barricaded streets, torched vehicles and government property, have opposed the proposed merger. They reportedly claimed that Ngwathe was badly run.

Gwayi said the meeting with Baloyi agreed there was a need to identify similar cases in other parts of the country that may lead to potential for violent protests in order for the government to intervene.

"The board has reassured the minister that the process was in full compliance with the law and beyond reproach," she said, adding that the board will cooperate with a review task team appointed to probe the process.

On Thursday Baloyi told a press conference in Pretoria that a task team would lead facilitations and monitor the process and is expected to complete its work by the end of February. It will investigate whether all changes to municipal boundaries will lead to a better state of municipalities to deliver services.

It also emerged on Friday that the board had received over 1000 proposals but only about 200 were considered. Consultations were being held in all the affected areas.

The board's CEO Gabisile Gumbi-Masilela suggested that Zamdela residents may have "pre-empted things" as consultations on the proposed merger of the municipalities was still under way.

"When we receive inputs from stakeholders we investigate so it's a thorough process we don't just thumb suck, as the board we've gone beyond what the law require of us and we still consulting," Gumbi-Masilela said.

Meanwhile, Zamdela has calmed down since violent protest action broke out in the township on Sunday. Reports said the violent protests which had been seen in the area had stopped while police maintained their presence.

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