Msukaligwa Local Municipality embroiled in High Court showdown

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GK CRONJE

24 May 2022

The court application further seeks that the current troika be interdicted from performing any of their functions within their relevant capacities.

On 31 March 2022, the former troika of Msukaligwa Local Municipality, consisting of Cllr Mahlalela (former Executive Mayor), Cllr Madini (former Speaker) and Cllr Buthelezi (former Whip) was ousted from council by means of an alleged unlawful motion of no confidence vote. This vote, which took place without a sufficient number of councillors present to partake, has shaken MLM to the foundation. The Tribune has received documents from an anonymous source detailing the strife at the municipality. The former troika has now taken their removal to the Middelburg High Court, seeking to challenge the legality and legitimacy of the vote of no confidence taken against them. The court application also seeks that the current acting troika, consisting of Cllr Nkosi (current Acting Mayor), Cllr Xaba (acting Speaker), and Cllr Sibeko (acting Whip) should have their appointments declared null and void, and set aside. Cllr Lisa, currently serving as the acting municipal manager, and the Department Of Cooperative Governance (COGTA), is also cited in the application. The court application further seeks that the current troika be interdicted from performing any of their functions within their relevant capacities. The former troika seeks to continue their functions in the interim, and their halted benefits restored. The unfortunate side effect of the ongoing power struggle within the already embattled municipality is the further downward spiral of already stunted service delivery, further lack of upkeep and maintenance of the wards and areas within the municipal bounds, and overall lack of transparency on every front from the municipality. No direct answers relating to service delivery, and more, can be gleaned from the current management structure, and an overall lack of transparency towards the community, as well as serving councillors, has the Msukaligwa region’s community hot under the collar.

The court and affidavits includes information that is not limited to the information pertaining to this article. The semi-urgent applicants seek that the court order be handled as soon as possible, as a matter of public interest, as it involves plenary powers. It states that rights such as Section 160 (3), Section 30 (1) of the Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998, as well as Section 80, have been deprived from the former troika during the vote of no confidence. Section 80 states that committees must process items on an agenda, whereafter these items are processed and approved, and sent to council for deliberation. The Speaker has exclusive rights to convene, postpone or adjourn a council meeting, as stated in the Municipal Structures Act, Section 29.

Only matters on the agenda may be deliberated, where the Speaker may rearrange the agenda items. In the event of no quorum (insufficient number of present members), the meeting must be suspended for no more than twenty minutes. Thereafter, if there is still no quorum, the Speaker may reschedule the meeting. Should the majority of council members wish to convene a council meeting, and the Speaker does not accede, the Municipal Manager may be approached. However, he/she must first request permission, in writing, from COGTA’s Executive Council. The above steps have, according to the applicants, not been lawfully taken, hence the application to have their vote and appointment ruled null and void. The applicants also state that the decisions taken by the current, illegitimate troika, can have serious financial implications, such as entering into contractual obligations. The applicants also state that Cllr Nkosi, as acting mayor, had appointed acting mayoral committee members (MMCs) at the Gert Sibande District Municipality offices, instead of the Msukaligwa Local Municipality offices. Furthermore, these appointments took place during a community protest on 28 April, where the Cllr Nkosi failed to address the community members.

The applicants also states that the offices of the current troika are closed, prohibiting them from performing their vital appointed functions. Councillors, as well as the community, are unable to engage with the acting troika, as an unauthorized change of locks of the municipal building has been implemented. The applicants further claim that the acting troika is conducting unlawful activities. Actions taken by the acting troika, which are deemed unlawful due their appointment, includes the reinstatement of suspended directors, revoking security detail and petrol cards, as well as grounding the vehicles of the former troika members. These are but a few examples. The fact remains that the required quorum for a council meeting to proceed is twenty councillors. Msukaligwa Local Municipality has a total of thirty eight councillors, of which a mere sixteen were present during the vote of no confidence. This, in itself, is a contravention of the former troika’s rights as presented. Furthermore, the applicants state that the acting municipal manager, Cllr Lisa, engaged telephonically with one Mr. Ngubane, head of department at COGTA.

According to Cllr Lisa, Ngubane recognized the meeting. However, the municipal act states that an application must be submitted in writing, which it was not. The court application is viewed by the applicants as a last resort, as they have been stonewalled attempting every other amicable resolution to the matter. COGTA did not respond to the matter at the time of publication. The Tribune has directed an enquiry to Msukaligwa Local Municipality regarding this matter. This enquiry has, however, been ignored.