Makhura says move to dissolve Tshwane council was a rational intervention to address exceptional failures
Johannesburg - Premier David Makhura has defended his administration’s decision to dissolve the deadlocked, powerless and paralysed City of Tshwane council as a rational intervention to address its exceptional failures.
Makhura, his executive council and Human Settlements, Urban Planning, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile want the Constitutional Court to reverse the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ruling declaring the decision invalid and setting aside the provincial government’s decision.
In April, a full bench of the high court - Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, judges Sulet Potterill and Natvarlal Ranchod - also ordered ANC and EFF councillors to attend all council meetings unless they had a lawful reason to be absent.
In June, the high court also ruled that head administrator Mpho Nawa was entitled to exercise the powers conferred by such appointment and that the decision to dissolve the council shall have no impact on the entitlement of the councillors to continue to receive their salaries and benefits and that its April ruling remained in operation and was to be given effect.
The provincial government maintains that the dissolution of the council was a rational intervention to steady the ship and allow Tshwane residents to solve the problem at the ballot box.
“The high court’s order promises a return to a deadlocked and paralysed municipal council. Tshwane has seen that movie before: a council unable to hold meetings, unable to appoint officials, unable to deliver on residents’ basic needs. This court should reverse the high court’s order,” read the provincial government’s written submissions filed by its counsel Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, Jason Mitchell, Cingashe Tabata and Tshidiso Ramogale.
Among the reasons cited for the dissolution of the council are instability due to the municipality being without a mayor, mayoral committee or city manager, a leadership crisis that has left its council barely able to function, widespread corruption, the water crisis in Hammanskraal, the grave concern of returning grants allocated for service delivery and failing to fulfil its obligations on grant spending.
The municipality was also operating with heads of key portfolios suspended, widespread corruption and maladministration at its Wonderboom national airport and racking up R5billion in irregular expenditure.
According to the provincial government, Tshwane residents needed a certain and stable local government, hence its decision to dissolve the council and cure the paralysis in the most democratic way possible: a fresh election.
It insisted that finality was in everyone’s interests and the high court second-guessed its legitimate judgment that council’s failures justified dissolution. “The DA’s scaremongering is premised on an extreme version of municipal autonomy that is out of step with co-operative, interdependent governance,” the provincial government states in its submissions.
The provincial government argues that municipalities are not islands.
“If a municipality is dysfunctional, deadlocked and paralysed - as the high court described this municipal council - it is the duty of the provincial government to dissolve the municipality in the interests of residents. Local government is not independent. It is interdependent,” the provincial government argued.
It blamed the state of affairs in the capital city on the collapse of the coalition agreement between the DA and the EFF.
The EFF told the apex court that its councillors would attend meetings but they could not be instructed to vote and were entitled to withhold their votes in the exercise of their political choices.
Oral arguments in the matter will be heard next month.