South Africa

Newsflash

Tshwane council: DA goes to court to challenge dissolution

On Thursday, the Johannesburg council is set to elect a new mayor, with the DA, ANC and EFF all due to nominate candidates, while a motion of no confidence in the DA’s Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa will be tabled.

The DA has filed court papers seeking to overturn the Gauteng government’s decision to dissolve the Tshwane council. The party not only wants the decision set aside but for the court to instruct ANC and EFF members to attend council meetings.

The DA claims the Gauteng government did not meet the legal requirements to dissolve the City of Tshwane council and place it under administration, which will trigger elections in three months.

The party, which filed court papers in the North Gauteng High Court on Friday to overturn the dissolution, has argued that many of the city’s challenges were caused by the ANC and EFF and that the ANC provincial government is trying to illegally take power from the DA-led administration.

In an affidavit, DA Tshwane leader Randall Williams called on the court to declare the Gauteng executive committee (EC) decision invalid and to order all ANC and EFF councillors to attend and remain in council meetings unless they have a valid reason to be absent.

Parties in Tshwane have been deadlocked since November 2019 and there is currently no mayor, mayoral committee or city manager in the municipality. Williams said the speaker would hold weekly council sittings to elect new leadership if the DA wins its case.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Co-Operative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile announced the decision last week to dissolve Tshwane’s council and appoint an administrator to run the city. Dissolving the council, meaning councillors would lose their jobs, automatically triggers elections within 90 days of the decision.

Makhura said the city was beset by “uncertainty, instability, inaction and collapse of services”. He cited a number of service delivery challenges and reports of financial mismanagement to invoke section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution, which allows a province to dissolve a council if it fails to meet its executive obligations.

“It is clear that the Gauteng EC’s purpose is to seize power from its political foe, the DA, and that it is not acting in the best interests of the people of Tshwane,” said Williams.

The DA formed a coalition to take the city after the 2016 municipal elections but it has faced various scandals and changes in leadership. Council meetings have collapsed or failed to reach a quorum since November 2019 after the EFF withdrew its provisional support for the DA and it, along with the ANC, continues to challenge Speaker Katlego Mathebe’s leadership.

The DA, which cited a whopping 17 respondents in its court application, believes the dissolution is invalid and unlawful for five reasons.

It said the Gauteng government’s decision was not procedurally fair, that it failed to explain how the city is failing to fulfil its constitutional mandate, that the cited reasons for intervention fell short of constitutional failure, that dissolution should be a last resort, and that the decision “was taken for an ulterior, political purpose”.

Makhura and Maile have said the provincial government’s intervention is lawful, in the best interests of Tshwane residents, and that they are ready to meet the DA in court.

Williams said the province did not give the city a chance to comment on its plan to dissolve the council and a day before it took its decision Maile had asked the speaker to reply, within three days, to his enquiry regarding directives he had given under section 139(1)(a) of the Constitution, which is a less drastic form of intervention.

He suggested an intervention under section 139(1)(a) or (1)(b), which would place the city under administration but not dissolve the council, would have been a better approach but the province was quick to act drastically.

“It remains entirely unclear what obligations it is contended the municipal council has breached,” said Williams.

The Gauteng government said it was intervening for nine reasons, including leadership vacancies, tender scandals, the Hammanskraal water crisis, and the unlawful, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure highlighted by the Auditor General.

Williams admitted “there are serious challenges in the municipality – as there are in many municipalities in Gauteng and the country” but he blamed many of them on the former ANC administration.

Likewise the leadership challenges: “The ANC and EFF’s conduct in this regard has created the very leadership problem which the Gauteng EC complains of in its dissolution notice,” he said.

The DA Tshwane leader noted concerns around tenders with Glad Africa, Aurecon, PEU Capital Partners but said they had either been cancelled or did not amount to constitutional failure.

He said the city had an extensive and lawful process in place to deal with the Auditor General’s concerns.

Regarding the ongoing challenges in providing clean water in Hammanskraal, Williams said, “It is clear that the city is taking the crisis seriously and has undertaken a range of interventions designed to correct the problem.”

While announcing the dissolution decision last week, Makhura denied that the ANC was trying to use the provincial government to take control of Tshwane. On the DA’s threats of legal action, he accused the party of acting as if it was “untouchable”.

Maile was quoted this week saying: “We’re ready to meet them in court, we actually dare them to go.”

The Gauteng executive committee has submitted its plans for Tshwane to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the National Council of Provinces for approval. If granted, it will then appoint an administrator. DM

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