Municipalities get budget boost

The department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, now overseen by David “Des” van Rooyen, who was fleetingly finance minister in December, will receive a budget increase in the medium term. Although overall baseline allocations to local, national and provincial governments were cut by 2.2%, 0.8% and 0.4% respectively, the department that oversees the smooth running of municipalities will be given more money to ensure that this takes place.

For 2016-2017, the department will be allocated just under R73-billion. Of that, the bulk – R68-billion – will go towards providing “institutional development”. This will largely be channelled through “Back to Basics”, a five-pillar programme aimed at ensuring quality service delivery, promoting good governance and prudent financial management, and “building institutional resilience and administrative capability”.

Next year, the allocation will be increased to R78.6?billion. This will rise to R84?billion by 2018-2019.

In its budget vote, the department put special emphasis on basic service delivery. “Over the medium term, the department projects spending R221?billion on the delivery of basic services and infrastructure … which constitutes 94.1% of [its] total budget over the medium term.”

Municipal infrastructure expenditure will increase from R14.9?billion this year to R16.9?billion in 2018-2019.

Last year, the co-operative governance department cracked down on municipalities that showed a lack of financial discipline. Under the leadership of its previous minister, Pravin Gordhan – who is now the finance minister – the department’s local government equitable share grant was underspent by R2.9-billion. “National treasury withheld the grant from 60 municipalities that failed to pay water boards and Eskom for services provided,” the department explained in its vote.

Internal misconduct is also being rooted out. Earlier this month, a former department employee in KwaZulu-Natal and a businessperson appeared in court on charges of stealing R7.5-million from the department by diverting cash that was intended to build a community centre in Bulwer.

But the Democratic Alliance has cast doubts on the likelihood that Van Rooyen will display similarly decisive leadership. It said he is “simply unfit for ministerial office”.

In December he was appointed finance minister, which saw R169?billion leave the South African market. Four days later, his position was swapped with that of Gordhan, who had led the co-operative governance department since May 2014.

Investec’s chief economist, Annabel Bishop, described Van Rooyen as a “perceived populist” and said the market saw his appointment to the finance ministry as the “government’s attempt to deepen extreme left-wing policies”.

Previously, Van Rooyen was the mayor of Gauteng’s Merafong council. The DA says he oversaw an increase of almost 70% in his own mayoral salary during his five years in office‚ and an increase in executive councillors’ salaries by 76.67%.

“Within just his second year in the mayoral office in Merafong‚ Van Rooyen oversaw R3 177 859 in unauthorised‚ irregular‚ fruitless and wasteful expenditure‚ up from zero in the year he came to office‚” the DA’s spokesperson on co-operative governance, Kevin Mileham, said.

But Van Rooyen has a string of business qualifications, including diplomas and certificates in business management, municipal governance, councillor development, municipal finance, investment analysis, and economic and public finance. He holds a master’s degree in public development and management (although it is unclear where from) and most recently earned an MSc in finance from the University of London.

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Thalia Holmes
Thalia Holmes

Thalia is a freelance business reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She grew up in Swaziland and lived in the US before returning to South Africa.

She got a cum laude degree in marketing and followed it with another in English literature and psychology before further confusing things by becoming a black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) consultant.

After spending five years hearing the surprised exclamation, "But you're white!", she decided to pursue her latent passion for journalism, and joined the M&G in 2012. 

The next year, she won the Brandhouse Journalist of the Year Award, the Brandhouse Best Online Award and was chosen as one of five finalists from Africa for the German Media Development Award. In 2014, she and a colleague won the Standard Bank Sivukile Multimedia Award. 

She now writes and edits for various publications, but her heart still belongs to the M&G.     

Related stories

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

The system to save failed councils needs a significant overhaul

Researchers found that interventions only come after the municipality has already collapsed, that the turnaround time is impossibly short, and that constitutional steps have been misinterpreted

Farm dwellers fight to access water and other basic services

Municipalities have failed to prioritise the rights of labour tenants and farmworkers

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Manage urban transformation to avoid infrastructure blockages

It is possible to urbanise without congestion and the attendant ills through emphasis on better institutions, writes Eddie Rakabe

A partnership between citizens and the state is needed to manage the pandemic

Covid-19 has taught us that we need an effective local government, a preventative and curative health system, evidence-based policing, a politically neutral public service and public participation in governance

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…