Deadline looms for comments on new municipality

MBOMBELA – The local municipalities of Mbombela and Unjindi are being amalgamated, and to complete the process the municipal wards have to be reconfigured.

The public has until Friday to make submissions on the proposed new wards to the municipal demarcation board (MDB).

The board met with stakeholders in Mbombela on Monday of last week, and in Barberton on Friday.

Mr Aluwani Ramagadza, the acting CEO of the MDB, says the discussions on the ward for the amalgamated Umjindi/Mbombela municipalities are for the combined area as they will become a single municipality on the day of the next local government elections.

“There cannot be ward discussions on the basis of the municipalities as separate entities. The draft wards under discussion now are in preparation of the next local government elections.”

In February the minister of cooperative governance, Mr Pravin Gordhan requested that the boundaries of dysfunctional and non-viable municipalities be redetermined.

Public consultations were held before the MDB decided to amalgamate Mbombela and Unjindi local municipalities in July.

nelspruit dorp mbombela city

The minister determined that there must be 42 wards in the newly formed municipality, but the MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Ms Refilwe Mtsweni, had leeway of 10 per cent, and decided on establishing 45 wards.

Ramagadza explains that the number of wards depend on the number of councillors determined by the MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs.

Therefore the MDB takes the total number of councillors as determined by the MEC Ms Refilwe Mtsweni and divide it by two to get the total number of wards, totaling 45.

The MDB then delimits wards covering the whole area of the amalgamated municipality following the demarcation criteria.

The criteria determine where the boundaries of different wards will be located.

According to the delimination criteria, communities are not to be split up as far as possible, and the topography and physical characteristics of an area is also taken into consideration.

The MDB groups voting districts as determined by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as it delimit wards. Voting districts comes with the number of registered voters.

Mbombela Dorp

Mbombela and Umjindi have a combined 306 854 registered voters. Each ward in a municipality should have approximately the same number of voters.

The norm for a ward is determined by dividing the total number of registered voters by the number of wards. In the new municipality, the norm would be 6 819 voters in each one.

This may not vary by more than 15 per cent, and may thus increase to a maximum of 7 842.

No proposed ward may have fewer than 5 796 registered voters.

Ms Hester Marais, provincial coordinator for the MDB in Mpumalanga, says since there were on average only 3 000 voters in a ward in Umjindi in the past, it is necessary to merge some of them.

There is also a challenge with integrating wards between the two municipalities, due to the mountain in-between. It has hence been decided that a ward will be added to the existing 39 north of the mountain.

South of the mountain, the current nine wards will be reduced to five, she explains.

Whether people will be unhappy at this reduction, and proportional decrease in councillors, cannot be helped.

“This is according to legislation,” Marais says. “We just have to make sure people understand why it is happening and try to minimize the impact.”

Ramagadza explains that an amalgamation results in a new municipal area.

The two councils will cease to exist as separate entities on the date of the elections, when the electorate will elect a new council for the whole area.

The new council will decide on all other matters related to their new institution.

For now, submissions close on Friday.

He adds that any affected individual or organisation can make submissions, and one made by a local municipality, for instance, won’t count more than those of citizens.

“We evaluate submissions on its validity in terms of our criteria. But analysis of proposals are done very sensitively where we cannot accommodate one person at the expense of thousands being affected.”

After the deadline for submissions this week, the proposed new boundaries will be published and the public afforded another 14 days to lodge any objections.

Mireille de Villiers

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