Guest Column

OPINION: Landmark court ruling highlights crisis in South Africa's cities and towns

2020-01-21 12:47
Court ruling shines spotlight on shocking levels of ineptitude at municipalities. (iStock)

Court ruling shines spotlight on shocking levels of ineptitude at municipalities. (iStock)

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The ruling is a victory for activists who have been embroiled in a long-running battle against the dysfunctional and incompetent municipal council run by the African National Congress (ANC), writes Joleen Steyn Kotze

A South African high court has passed a landmark ruling with far-reaching implications for municipalities that fail to carry out their constitutional duty to citizens.

The Makhanda High Court granted an application by the Unemployed People's Movement that the Makana Local Municipality be dissolved.

The court ordered that the Eastern Cape provincial government, under which the municipality falls, appoint an administrator to run its affairs. It will be the second time this has happened.

In 2014 the city was placed under administration for three months.

This was because it was financially vulnerable, wasn't maintaining infrastructure and service delivery had crumbled. At one point residents went without water for nine days.

That intervention failed to fix the problems.

Last year citizens turned to the judiciary, signalling that they were no longer willing to give the government a chance to fix the problem. They are hoping that the judiciary can help solve the crisis of governance.

South Africa's Constitution stipulates that local government must ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable way, promote a safe and healthy environment and encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations.

Municipalities are the third tier of government after provinces and the national government. This tier is also the closest level to ordinary citizens, and as such, forms the basis of the relationship between government and citizens.

Judge Igna Stretch said in her judgment that the conduct of the Makana municipality had been inconsistent with the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa … [by] failing to promote a healthy and sustainable environment for the community.

The ruling is a victory for activists who have been embroiled in a long-running battle against the dysfunctional and incompetent municipal council run by the African National Congress (ANC).

Unemployed Peoples Movement, Makana, Makhanda

Unemployed People's Movement members celebrate outside the High Court in Makhanda after the court ruled that the Makana Council be dissolved and the municipality be put under administration. (Sue Maclennan, Grocott's Mail)


Read more on:    makana municipality  |  municipalities
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