In the 2016 local government election the residents of Tshwane voted the ANC government out of office. But now ANC rule has returned to the capital city.
In March this year the ANC provincial government in Gauteng disbanded the Tshwane’s council and placed the municipality under administration.
At the time Tshwane had no arrear Eskom debt, an unqualified audit outcome for the last financial year, an operating surplus, and a two-notch credit upgrade from Moody’s.
The only credible explanation for the province invoking section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution, reserved for “exceptional circumstances”, was that this was a cynical ANC ploy to grab back the power the party lost in 2016.
The pretext for provincial intervention was created by ANC and EFF councillors who disrupted council meetings and broke quorum. This was a clear violation of the statutory code of conduct for councillors.
The DA went to court to overturn the power grab, and in May the High Court ruled in our favour. Judge President Mlambo delivered a stringing rebuke of the Gauteng government as well ANC and EFF councillors.
Not only was the decision to disband Tshwane overturned, ANC and EFF councillors were ordered to attend council meetings.
On Monday a crucial aspect of the case will be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal, and we expect a judgment soon thereafter.
But as important as the court case is, it is also important for the South African people to know what is going on under the cover of “administration” in the nation’s capital.
Collapse of service delivery and looming financial crisis in Tshwane
At present Tshwane has no city council to check on the management of the city, including tenders, expenditures, court cases, and contracts.
DA ward councillors continue to help communities with service delivery problems, but until a court outcome they have no official standing when speaking to municipal officials. And there is no elected mayor down the line of accountability.
As we speak sewage is running down some of Tshwane’s main streets, but the municipal workers meant to fix the problem are either on strike or on slow strike.
Water leaks and electricity outages that used to be fixed in 24 to 48 hours, now take weeks. DA councillors try their best to share the little information they receive from officials.
This month revenue collection is apparently down by 30% – worsening the blow of the lockdown on city revenues, and threatening the city’s financial sustainability.
Rates clearance certificates aren’t being issued, and building plans aren’t being processed. So the little development that is possible in spite of the lockdown is being thwarted by municipal incompetence.
In May, two months after the lockdown, the administrators approved for public comment a city budget that was underfunded by at least R2 billion.
The administrators hadn’t taken the likely effect of the lockdown on city revenues into account, rendering the entire public participation process worthless.
But what has concerned Tshwane’s lead administrator, Mpho Nawa, hasn’t been the breakdown of services, the revenue crisis, or a discredited budget.
He has been more concerned with appointing political support staff, including the currently vacant position of the mayor’s chief of staff.
Neverminded that until the court case is decided there are no politicians holding elective office in the city, and that there is no mayor in need of the services of a chief of staff.
Administrators fail to deal with violent strike action
The administrators also cannot seem to get a handle on the SA Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) – despite the union being a key ally of the ANC in its Tshwane power grab.
Different ANC factions now seem to be fighting each other for control of Tshwane House – a reminder of what happened in the lead up to the 2016 local election.
When Thoko Didiza was announced as the candidate to replace the inept Sputla Ramakgopa as ANC mayoral candidate members of the party, including deployed cadres in the municipal administration, unleashed a wave of violence and destruction.
Roads were blocked, municipal offices were trashed, and municipal cars were set ablaze. All this had to be mopped up by the DA-led coalition government that took over later that year.
Settlement being considered on West Capital land scam
Today the DA can also reveal that the city’s administrators want to settle a court case over an unlawful land deal called the West Capital Development Project. The deal was concluded under the previous ANC mayor Kgosontso Ramakgopa in 2011 and amended without council approval in 2013.
In terms of the deal a 99-year lease is given to a private consortium over more than 1000 acres of city owned land that includes a waste water treatment plant, a bus depot, and the Heroes Acre cemetery. For this and other benefits the consortium pays a nominal rental of R100 per calendar year.
In 2018 the DA-led city government took the West Capital deal on judicial review, and the matter is now ripe for hearing in the High Court. But we have now seen documents proposing a “settlement” instead, including extending the life of the unlawful deal. The legacy of ANC mismanagement, corruption and cadre deployment between 2000 and 2016 runs deeper in Tshwane than anywhere else with the possible exception of Nelson Mandela Bay.
What has happened in Tshwane since March justifies the case the DA has made in court. It shows what happens to democracy, service delivery and the capacity of the state when an election outcome is reversed.
The DA will continue the fight against the Tshwane power grab – in court, but also in the lead up to the 2021 local government election. We have not yet reversed the ANC’s legacy, and we have made mistakes of our own.
But it is now even clearer than it was in 2016 that the ANC in Tshwane cannot be trusted with responsibility.
Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court.