Emfuleni municipality denies splurging millions in labour disputes

Sewage waste floods Mongau Street in Tshepiso, Sharpeville, in Emfuleni local municipality. Picture: Supplied

Sewage waste floods Mongau Street in Tshepiso, Sharpeville, in Emfuleni local municipality. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 1, 2024


Emfuleni Local Municipality has denied spending over R55 million chasing a labour dispute matter against one of its employees.

This comes after the DA, through its constituency head Kingsol Chabalala, accused the embattled municipality of having spent over R55m in a legal dispute with an employee over unfair labour practices relating to benefits on acting allowance.

Chabalala said all of this is happening while residents suffer from a constant shortage of water, poor refuse collection and persistent power outages.

In recent times, the municipality has been battling service delivery issues including provision of water services. The Department of Water and Sanitation has had to step in to upgrade critical bulk pipelines and pump station infrastructure due to ongoing difficulties.

Chabalala said this money spent on outsourcing legal services could have been used to improve service delivery, and legal services could have been provided internally instead.

“The cash-strapped Emfuleni Local Municipality is struggling to deliver services to its residents, and it is unacceptable that it is spending such staggering sums of money to fight one labour dispute when the Labour Court has already ordered it to pay R739 551.42.The return on investment for the Emfuleni ratepayer on this out-of-control spending is non-existent,” Chabalala said.

The DA said it was concerned over these payments, saying the municipality’s exorbitant spending on outsourced legal representation indicates a lack of capacity within its internal legal unit.

“It has now become the norm for Emfuleni officials to use law firms representing the municipality to loot public funds, which is a major concern,” he said.

Chabalala said his party wants Gauteng MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mzi Khumalo, to investigate the matter.

It has been reported that four legal firms are involved in the litigation amounting to over R55m with one of the municipality’s employees.

“The DA demands that MEC Khumalo immediately intervene and ensure the Emfuleni legal unit serves its purpose of handling legal issues about the municipality. Furthermore, Emfuleni’s labour disputes must be resolved quickly and internally, not at the expense of rate paying residents,“ said Chabalala.

However, responding to The Star’s media inquiry, spokesperson for the municipality, Makhosonke Sangweni, has indicated that the amount spent on the labour dispute is not the amount alleged by the DA.

“It should be noted that the allegation of R55m in legal fees is not limited to labour disputes only. This amount is for all legal works from various departments within the municipality, legal and conveyancing. Example being BXC (company that installs smart meters), Eskom, evictions, by-laws, and cemeteries. Within labour relations, disputes are not limited to unfair labour practice only. There are cases of unfair dismissals, promotions and demotions, to mention but few,” Sangweni said.

On the issue of the labour dispute, the municipality said it had to fight the litigation head-on to avoid similar incidents from occurring again.

“The municipality is under no obligation to pay every employee who brings a claim against it. This will undoubtedly open the floodgates of litigation by the employees against the municipality. Furthermore, only those cases where the employee has a good prospect of success against the municipality are resolved amicably. The municipality assesses every case on its merits before taking a position whether to settle or oppose,“ he said.

The Star

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