A war of words has erupted between the IFP and the KwaZulu-Natal government, with the IFP accusing the government of targeting the municipalities in which it leads.
This follows a Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling on Friday in favour of the mayor of Zululand Thulasizwe Buthelezi who had lodged a review of a forensic report on the Zululand District Municipality on the grounds that the investigation procedure followed was flawed.
An investigation was launched in 2020 by the provincial Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) following allegations of corruption and fraud at the IFP-led district municipality.
The findings of the report were challenged by Buthelezi, along with the Speaker and deputy mayor, and taken on review while Cogta was set to start implementing the recommendations stemming from the investigation.
According to IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa, the court had ruled that Cogta had:
• Failed to give the applicants (mayor Buthelezi and others) a clear statement of the case they were required to meet;
• Failed to give the applicants a meaningful opportunity to respond to allegations levelled against them (the audi alteram partem rule); and
• The evidence before the investigators had not been rationally connected to the findings in the report.
Hlabisa said Friday’s ruling vindicated the party and it called on the government to apply the law evenly.
“On several occasions to date, the IFP in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature has repeatedly complained that the ANC government in the province is selective and abuses government power in instituting Section 106 (of the Local Government Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000) investigations, and section 139 interventions (of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 106 of 1996) in municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal,” said Hlabisa.
He added that judicial review was not a new phenomenon as President Cyril Ramaphosa had also taken the Report of the Public Protector, on her findings about him on judicial review.
“Minister Pravin Gordhan did the same in the Public Protector’s findings on him, and the same applied. We do not have a law that applies in one way to ANC public officials in South Africa, and then changes when applied to public officials of other parties,” Hlabisa continued.
He said the judgment clearly indicated that the IFP’s accusations of bias by Cogta regarding its investigations and interventions in the province are clearly not unfounded and baseless.
“This judgment must also be a lesson to MEC for Cogta, that he must refrain from fighting political battles using taxpayers’ money,” Hlabisa stressed.
Provincial government spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said Cogta would comment in detail after studying the judgment, but pointed out that the judgment also appeared to be open to further review.
“The statement is therefore an unfortunate propaganda clap-trap that lacks substance. There are findings of wrongdoing including corruption in the forensic report tabled. These are facts and truths contained in the report, accountability and consequence management are expected from all those committed to good, clean and ethical governance,” said Mabaso.
He also dismissed the IFP’s charge of an uneven application of the law when it comes to municipalities.
“A careful look at municipalities who are currently under administration or had forensic investigations undertaken will reveal that they are governed by different political parties but the government looks at them as public entities and instruments of delivery to the people of KZN,” Mabaso stressed.
He said the provincial government would continue to act without fear, favour or prejudice on any public institution or officials found to be compromising effective functioning or service to the people by any public institution or official.