Home News Municipality seeks legal advice after being placed under administration

Municipality seeks legal advice after being placed under administration

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Renosterberg mayor, Councillor Johannes Niklaas, said that he was satisfied that everything had been done to prevent the premature and unlawful dissolution of the municipality.

Picture: succo, Pixabay

THE RENOSTERBERG Municipality is seeking legal advice following the announcement on Monday that the local municipality has been placed under administration.

Northern Cape Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, announced at a press conference on Monday morning that the Provincial Executive Council had directed the MEC for COGHSTA to appoint an Administrator at the Renosterberg local municipality until the election of a new municipal council.

Renosterberg mayor, Councillor Johannes Niklaas, said that he was satisfied that everything had been done to prevent the premature and unlawful dissolution of the municipality.

“We will continue our quest for service delivery for the people of Renosterberg, as we have done in normalising electricity supply. We have referred the matter to our attorneys and advisors,” he added.

Done everything

Niklaas pointed out that the local council had done everything within reason to engage the MEC for COGHSTA to fulfil his statutory obligation on oversight.

“We petitioned Premier Zamani Saul on February 7, and secured the Premier’s commitment that provincial treasury would fund the budgets for two Section 56 appointments for two financial years, for a director technical services, and director corporate services, at a total maximum annual remuneration package of R1,155,692.78 each.

“Despite letters and enquiries Renosterberg has not seen the money, nor the assistance. MEC Vass was first alerted to this commitment on February 12 – and has not responded to date.”

Niklaas added that the council had also submitted seven letters requesting orderly engagement on municipal challenges. “All of these were unanswered but for a false claim before the select committee that the letters were created on a single day on August 31 in an attempt to deceive.”

“We also filed an Intergovernmental Dispute in terms of the Framework Act prior to the Section 139 dissolution notice, but the Premier and the MEC and the provincial executive have ignored the law.”

Niklaas stated that in response to the declaration of dissolution of the municipality, the council submitted a statement to the Premier pointing out that dissolving the Council at this stage was unlawful.

Among the reasons cited was that the municipality had filed a Section 41 notice in terms of the Framework Act prior to the Section 139 dissolution notice.

“This automatically triggered the remedies and procedures prescribed in terms of the Framework Act. The provisions of this process are peremptory, and cannot be negated by a Section 139 process. A Section 41 process cannot be used once notice has been given of Section 139 process.”

Fatally defective

He stated further that the MEC’s Section 139 notice was fatally defective, both in terms of the merits and procedure.

“There exist no cogent reasons why the Council needs to be dissolved at this stage, given the alternatives available and the remedies already put in place by the Municipality. The Municipality has not been afforded any meaningful opportunity at indicating why such dissolution would be unnecessarily and irretrievably harmful, wasteful, and unlawful. Given the lack of consultation and alternatives available any dissolution would, in addition to being unlawful, also be irrational.”

Niklaas added that in persisting with such putative dissolution the MEC would, on the one hand, set the parties on an inevitable course of litigation that would further complicate and harm the situation and, on the other hand, unreasonably fail to make use of the viable, reasonable and cost-effective remedies such as the Section 41 Framework Act process, mediation and or arbitration that were available immediately.

“The political and social environment in the Municipality is emotionally charged and tense at this stage. A visible collaboration between all role-players, done in an urgent, constructive, and transparent manner will, in our view, do wonders in restoring confidence in public management and effective leadership, without further exacerbating the situation with delays and litigation.

“If the Council is dissolved at this stage irreparable harm is done, with negative consequences for all concerned, while if the Section 41 process is introduced the MEC still has all remedies available to him if such process should fail.”

He added that the council was ready to meet the MEC and all relevant role-players on an urgent basis.

Way forward

“We remain committed to a speedy and lasting resolution of the trouble besetting the Municipality, and remain confident that a responsible and calm approach to the situation, by all role-players, is the only viable way forward.”

The Democratic Alliance has, meanwhile, voiced its concerns that the Northern Cape ANC provincial executive had manipulated the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to dissolve the Renosterberg municipality.

DA Member of Parliament, Willem Faber, said in a statement that Renosterberg, under the new leadership of recently elected ANC mayor Johannes Nicklaas, had done an about-turn.

“In fact, for the first time in ages, the municipality succeeded in paying its outstanding Eskom debt in full, for the past three consecutive months. This is something that the municipality failed to do under the leadership of former ANC mayor, Johannes Olifant, and clearly shows progress within the institution.”

He added that the recent audit outcomes of local government had also revealed that there were many other Northern Cape municipalities that were in a far worse state than Renosterberg municipality.

Questionable

“The decision of COGHSTA MEC, Bentley Vass, to issue a notice of intervention in terms of section 139 of the Constitution, is therefore very questionable. We can only wonder why he did not rather choose to adopt a less intrusive intervention instead?

“Given the irrationality of the dissolution of council and the 139 intervention, we can only surmise that Vass’s actions are politically motivated and seek to protect the old guard from being exposed via a forensic audit, which was applied for by the Municipal Manager, and supported by Council.”

“The DA is contesting the hastily-adopted decision to dissolve Renosterberg Council and also to implement a Section 139(5) intervention. In addition to other irregularities, it must also be taken into account that the mayor and MM previously applied for an inter-governmental dispute, which in effect means that the NCOP deliberations were, in fact, premature and should be declared null and void,” Faber added.