Melmoth – uMthonjaneni Local Municipality: In line with our mandate of general oversight of the sphere of local government in our province, this afternoon we met with the Council of the uMthonjaneni Local Municipality, where we engaged them on several issues relating to governance, oversight, and the proper management of the municipality’s resources.

This was a meeting that is part of our efforts to strengthen governance within our municipalities and to also ensure that proper measures are in place to ensure that municipalities fulfil their mandate.

In the Mthonjaneni Municipality, one of the key issues that we raised during our engagement is the illegal decision that was taken by the EXCO of this municipality to suspend two councillors.

We have received correspondence from various parties on this matter and felt it fitting that we express our concern to the council about its brazenness in defending an illegal decision that the EXCO took in suspending the two councillors. Our view as a department, based on a careful reading of the law, is that EXCO does not have the power to suspend a councillor.

Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Act 3 of 2021, Section 16 (2) stipulates that:

(2) If the council or a special committee finds that a councillor has breached a provision of this code, the council may— (a) issue a formal warning to the councillor; (b) reprimand the councillor; (c) request the MEC for local government in the province to suspend the councillor for a certain period; (d) fine the councillor; or (e) request the MEC to remove the councillor from office.

As clearly stated in this extract from the Structures Amendment Act, this is a power that is only given to the MEC for Local Government. 

In our engagement with the municipality, we emphasised our call for the council to respect the rule of law.

When councils take illegal decisions that are challenged in court, this leaves municipalities vulnerable to cost orders, which could negatively impact the limited resources municipalities have.

We continue to work closely with all of our municipalities, and we applaud the Mthonjaneni Municipality for filling many of their important senior positions. This is a positive step that makes sure municipalities can provide services.

We are concerned, however, about the skyrocketing unauthorised, irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure, which the council must strictly monitor through its relevant committees.

We also wish to see the cash coverage of the municipality improve to be within the norm which is 90 days.

Issued by MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sihle Zikalala.