Eastern Cape government must dissolve Makana municipality now

Verdict should serve as warning to other municipalities who fails to put citizens first.

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22/05/2020 11:11:23

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Eastern Cape government must dissolve Makana municipality now  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Eastern Cape government must put the rights of citizens first and dissolve the Makana Local Municipality with immediate effect, as instructed by the Makhanda High Court on Thursday, according to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tim Tyrrell, Project Manager at OUTA, said it was time for the Eastern Cape government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on costly litigation and instead use its limited financial resources on improving the lives of Makana citizens. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “This rebuke against what can only be described as an uncaring local and provincial government must be heard as a loud warning that unless the needs of citizens are placed front and centre of the political debate, and unless corruption, incompetence and poor governance are firmly dealt with, more communities across the country will seek similar action. OUTA is aware of several who are eager to bring similar action to court,” said Tyrrell.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      He said the High Court ruling was “a powerful message to the 65 municipalities across the country” that had been placed under administration since 2009/2010. Of these, 20 have been placed under administration more than once, some as many as four times, according to a study by the Public Affairs Research Institute, which reviewed the use of Section 139 of the Constitution. The Section provides the legal framework for placing municipalities under administration.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Judge Igna Stretch handed down the ruling on May 21. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Stretch dismissed the province and Makana Local Municipality’s leave to appeal an earlier judgment made in favour of the Makana-based Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) handed down on January 14.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That judgment found the municipality to be in breach of its Constitutional obligations to residents because of numerous service delivery failures. The provincial government was ordered to dissolve the municipality in line with Section 139(5)(a) of the Constitution and appoint an administrator until a new municipal council could be elected. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In Thursday’s judgment, Stretch said: “the respondents have egg on their face” and “they ought to be hanging their heads in shame”.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      She also urged the respondents against attempts to take the matter to a higher court, which could find them “guilty of vexatious or frivolous litigation” because there was no reasonable chance of success.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The order stands and should be implemented immediately, said the Judge. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      She said one of the principle reasons for the UPM to have launched its original application was that after four years of reminders, queries and prompts to local and provincial government, the municipality had still not implemented the financial recovery plan decided on in 2015 after it was placed under administration in 2014. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Stretch said that “the provincial government has done absolutely nothing about this unfortunate state of affairs” and “the facts which amount to a failure on the part of the municipality to fulfil its constitutional obligations to its people have not been disputed”.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Judge cited multiple occasions of local and provincial government being contacted by concerned groups but ignoring the correspondence.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      She said it was evident that if the UPM had not approached the court, the “same old, same old” would have continued. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tyrrell said the scathing judgment was the second in the space of three months, a clear indication that the rot at the municipality was deep set. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      On March 4, in an unrelated matter, Judge Miki Mfenyana of the Makhanda High Court found that Makana’s executive mayor, Mzukisi Mpahlwa, and municipal manager, Moppo Mene, were in contempt of court concerning a judgment made on September 8, 2015. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That judgment required the municipality to secure its landfill perimeter and implement waste management protocols that were being flouted and had resulted in unmanaged dumping and regular fires. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The mayor and municipal manager were both given six-month jail sentences - wholly suspended - providing they complied with the original order. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Judge referred Mene’s affidavit to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate if the municipal manager had lied under oath and committed perjury. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tyrrell said South African courts have ordered cost orders against negligent government officials such the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and former minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “The same should occur against the Makana leadership and the responsible officials in the provincial government. All the litigation was unnecessary, costly and to the detriment of service delivery. It cannot be that money can be found to fight legal challenges in which there is no reasonable prospect of success yet potholes are not fixed, leaking water infrastructure is not repaired and waste treatment facilities lie broken, all of which endanger the quality of life citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Tyrrell. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Those who opposed the judgement should be liable for costs. Council should also pay back their remuneration backdated since the first judgement was released to dissolve the council,” Tyrrell added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Picture: Shutterstock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.