Crisis in City Planning Department as City of Ekurhuleni avoid accountability
by Cllr. Heather Hart — DA Shadow MMC for City Planning in Ekurhuleni
Date: 27 January 2021
Type: Media Statement
The level of accountability within the ANC Coalition-led City of Ekurhuleni is diminishing rapidly. In an unprecedented move, the Head of Department (HoD) for City Planning has sent a memo instructing all City Planning Department officials to refrain from engaging directly with Councillors forthwith. The instruction comes with a ‘consequence management’ threat should any official be found to have ignored the instruction.
Instead, Councillors have been instructed to liaise through the office of the Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for City Planning via the MMC’s Strategic Advisor. This has resulted in a significant backlog in investigations and resolutions of illegal land use and buildings. Not only is this frustrating for Councillors and residents alike, who usually route their complaints or queries via their local Councillor, but it is leading to a city where urban degradation is fast becoming the order of the day.
On numerous occasions, Democratic Alliance (DA) Councillors have approached officials in the interests of following-up on resident complaints, or expediting a certain process within the Department, only to be told by officials that despite being willing to assist, Councillors must ‘seek permission’ from the MMC first. However, even when these matters are escalated to the City Planning MMC and/or the Strategic Advisor, assistance has not been forthcoming.
The attempt to deflect responsibility and accountability is not confined to City Planning as more departmental heads and officials are refusing to deal with Councillors and re-directing complaints to the relevant MMC’s or instructing the Councillor to obtain the MMC’s permission first before they will liaise further!
When the memo from the City Planning HOD surfaced, the Democratic Alliance (DA) wrote to ANC-Mayor, Cllr. Mzwandile Masina and the Speaker of Council, Ald. Patricia Kumalo seeking the legislative basis upon, which such a directive was issued.
Receiving no response, an urgent motion was submitted at the November Council Meeting, which sought to withdraw the directive and allow Councillors to engage with departmental officials in the interest of service delivery. The Speaker, however, declined to hear the motion without any explanation provided — another instance of how the ANC Coalition-led Metro is shirking their service delivery responsibilities and using Council to protect members of the mayoral committee and officials alike.
DA Leader in Ekurhuleni, Ald. Tania Campbell, has subsequently petitioned the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lebogang Maile (MPL), to overturn these directives in order to allow Councillors to perform their legally mandated roles of doing oversight over municipal departments and officials assisting voters with service delivery complaints.
The DA finds it totally unacceptable that officials divert any issues bought to them by Councillors, who are acting on behalf of their communities. There is now simply no accountability within the City Planning Department with ever-increasing examples of illegal land use and other legal violations regarding the built environment.
The status quo of officials being forced to shirk their responsibility simply cannot continue, while service delivery continues to decline and ratepayers are ultimately the ones who suffer. This not only hampers the operational process flow within Departments, resulting in unnecessary bureaucratic delays to service delivery requests, but also restricts Councillor’s ability to conduct their mandated responsibilities.
Cllr. Heather Hart
DA Shadow MMC for City Planning in Ekurhuleni