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Ward committees court battle continues

Pretoria - Tshwane rejected calls for fresh ward committee elections after the North Gauteng High Court declared their elections unconstitutional and will instead launch another legal challenge against the decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Dawie Fourie denied the municipality leave to appeal against his earlier judgment declaring all 105 municipal ward committees null and void.

Judge Fourie had ruled in favour of the DA after the opposition party had approached the court asking it to declare the by-law Public Participation: Ward Committees, Petitions, Public Meetings and Hearings unconstitutional.

The DA argued that as far as the by-law was concerned, the adoption process which preceded its promulgation was invalid for various reasons, the most important being that the public participation requirement stipulated in the constitution had not been complied with.

Judge Fourie agreed and found that the elections were conducted in the absence of any valid regulatory framework. The city then filed a notice of intention to appeal against the decision, but Judge Fourie has turned that down too.

Gert Pretorius, DA caucus leader in the City of Tshwane, said the verdict confirmed the party was correct that elections were not in accordance with the law and that the metro’s insistence on continuing with the committees was a grave mistake.

“Tshwane’s attempt to obtain an appeal was, as in so many instances, based on poor legal advice,” said Pretorius. “These legal failures are… nothing but fruitless expenditure. Tax money in other words should have been put to better use.”

Pretorius said the DA remained in favour of a ward committee system constituted legally.

“The latest court setback will hopefully be a wake-up call to the ANC-led Tshwane metro to stop politicking, to stop wasting taxpayers’ money and to genuinely consider the best interests of all communities despite party political affiliations.”

Pretorius said the right thing to do would be for the city to hold new ward committee elections.

However, the City of Tshwane has indicated that after advice from its legal team, it will petition the full Bench to hear its application for leave to appeal. “We have 30 working days from the date of the judgment as allowed by the rules to file our petition and we are well within time to do so as our legal team is in the process of filing same,” said mayor and regional ANC chairman Kgosientso Ramokgopa. “As a result of the city exercising its full rights as stated above, the status quo with ward committees shall remain – they are still operational and effective and none of their work is affected.

“We appreciate that ward committees are rudimentary organs of people’s power aimed at empowering our communities to be part of the daily governance of their wards, regions and ultimately the entire city. They will remain a critical instrument of reaching out, listening and taking decisions for our people, with our people. Without the ward committees, councillors would be accountable only to their parties or themselves and not the immediate communities.”

Ramokgopa said the DA’s insistence that the council not use the courts to resolve some of the opposition tactics would be to deny the municipality as a juristic person its rights to defend its integrity.

He said no amount of political blackmail would stop the city from resolving issues through consensus, referendum and voting and, if needs be, through the courts.

“In this instance, the DA would like to see the City of Tshwane approach the 2016 elections without the ward committees so that it can spread propaganda of a non-delivery ANC-led council,” he said.

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