The residents of Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality recently voiced their concerns to the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs regarding the frequent changes in municipal boundaries and ward delimitation. They highlighted the adverse effects of these changes, such as instability and disruption in municipalities’ planning processes. As a response to these concerns, the Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill was discussed in parliamentary public hearings held in Botshabelo. The bill aims to address the existing demarcation discrepancies and establish clearer boundaries between municipalities and wards. This article delves into the key proposals and objectives of the bill, shedding light on the potential impact it could have on local governance and public participation.
Promoting Stability and Integrated Development Plans:
The residents emphasized the need for stability in municipalities, suggesting that reviews or changes to municipal boundaries should only occur every ten or fifteen years. By limiting the frequency of these changes, the proposal aims to mitigate the disruptive impact on Integrated Development Plans, which are crucial for effective local governance. Integrated Development Plans serve as blueprints for municipalities, outlining their developmental objectives, strategies, and key projects. Frequent boundary changes can impede the implementation and progress of these plans, leading to inefficiencies and delays in service delivery.
Establishing Clear Boundaries:
To address the existing confusion and ensure clarity, the residents called for the establishment of clear boundaries between municipalities and wards. They suggested using prominent geographical features like roads or rivers as natural boundaries. Currently, there are instances where neighbors belong to different wards within the same geographic area. This lack of clear demarcation creates administrative challenges and can lead to disparities in resource allocation and representation. By implementing unambiguous boundaries, the proposed bill aims to enhance accountability, efficiency, and equitable service provision within municipalities.
Support for the Bill and Resolving Demarcation Discrepancies:
The majority of participants expressed their support for the Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill. They hoped that the new legislation would address the existing demarcation discrepancies and provide a more streamlined process for resolving disputes. Concerns were raised regarding the lengthy duration it currently takes for the demarcation board to resolve such issues. The proposed establishment of the Demarcation Appeals Authority aims to expedite the resolution process and ensure fair and transparent decision-making. Additionally, the bill advocates for increased public participation and stakeholder consultation during demarcation and delimitation processes, further enhancing inclusivity and transparency.
Updating Legislation and Renaming the Demarcation Authority:
The Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Local Government: Municipal Demarcation Act, 1998 (Act No. 27 of 1998). The purpose of this amendment is to align the legislation with the current practices of the Demarcation Board, reflecting the need for more contemporary guidelines and procedures. Furthermore, the bill proposes renaming the Municipal Demarcation Board to the Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority, emphasizing the independence and autonomy of the organization responsible for demarcation and delimitation decisions.
National Public Hearings and Submissions:
The parliamentary public hearings on the Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill have been conducted in various provinces. Free State became the third province to contribute to the discussion, following the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape provinces. The committee intends to visit all provinces, ensuring that a broad range of perspectives are considered. For individuals who were unable to participate in the oral submissions, there is still an opportunity to have their voices heard. Written inputs concerns raised by the residents of Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality regarding frequent changes in municipal boundaries and ward delimitation. By promoting stability, establishing clear boundaries, and enhancing public participation, the bill strives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local governance. The proposed amendments and the establishment of the Demarcation Appeals Authority reflect the commitment to resolve demarcation discrepancies promptly and fairly. With the bill’s potential to streamline processes and align legislation with current practices, it holds promise for fostering stable and well-planned municipalities across the country.