Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court has ordered the Matzikama Local Municipality to immediately comply with an ongoing investigation into maladministration, fraud and corruption at the municipality.
Acting judge Selwyn Hockey rejected the municipality's application against Local Government MEC Anton Bredell’s decision to investigate the municipality.
The municipality had wanted to suspend the investigation into alleged non-compliance with statutory obligations until pending intergovernmental dispute resolutions are finalised.
Judge Hockey found the municipality’s non-co-operation unlawful saying: “Matzikama Local Municipality and all those working under it are directed immediately to comply with the investigation initiated by the local government MEC.”
The ANC-controlled municipality includes the towns of Vredendal, Vanrhynsdorp, Klawer and Lutzville.
Welcoming the ruling, Bredell said: “This investigation is in the best interests of the people of Matzikama and if there has been any wrongdoing then justice must be served. I am calling on the council of Matzikama to work with the independent investigators in ensuring the matter can be completed as soon as possible.”
“The conduct by public officials and political office bearers in Matzikama is harmful not only to the rule of law but to the residents of Matzikama.
“It is a pity that elected leaders, often in the poorest municipalities, appear to forget about their communities once they are in power and when questions are raised, they abuse their positions to protect their actions.
“We welcome the court’s order and we look forward to bringing this matter to a swift conclusion.”
The matter dates to 2019 when the MEC received complaints of maladministration and serious malpractices relating to the Matzikama council.
In August 2020, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) carried out a raid on the municipality’s offices, seizing documents and computers as part of its probe into alleged irregular procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the region.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said their teams were sent to the Matzikama municipality as well as to the two PPE suppliers following allegations about procurement irregularities in June.
Bredell’s spokesperson, James-Brent Styan, said: “In 2020 the provincial Department of Local Government conducted an assessment of the various allegations against the Matzikama council and recommended that the MEC initiate an investigation under section 106 (b) of the Systems Act in respect of six complaints.
“These complaints included the alleged irregular appointment of two family members of the then mayor. Three further complaints involved allegations of irregular appointments and one complaint involved an alleged irregular payment made to a former ward councillor to resign in order for a by-election to be conducted.
“All requests by investigators for information and documentation from Matzikama and its officials had been refused and the council and its leaders had been completely unco-operative. This left us with no choice but to approach the court.”