Gauteng Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile has just lost, with costs, a legal case in which he dissolved the DA-governed Tshwane municipality.
The immediate impact of his decision to dissolve the council left hundreds of councillors without an income as a result of what the Pretoria High Court has since ruled an ill-conceived action.
Maile and the Gauteng executive are now planning to seek direct access to the Constitutional Court to try to reverse the court judgment. The process is increasingly looking like an ego trip, on which Maile seeks to prove that he was correct to intervene in the manner in which he did.
Tshwane has demonstrated the complexities of coalition governments in modern times, where changing loyalties and unstable relationships keep municipalities in a sense of perpetual crisis. The formerly ANC-led municipality was taken over by the DA with the support of the EFF after the 2016 elections.
After the EFF’s relationship with the DA collapsed, the municipality battled to survive, leading to a protracted deadlock. And so, in stepped Maile, who was supposed to intervene only with the intention to restore stability.
But the high court judgment has painted a picture of an MEC obsessed with getting even with former Tshwane speaker Katlego Mathebe, who stood her ground against his illegal interference.
The court said that, even when Maile knew what the problems were in the municipality, he single-mindedly went on to attack on the DA-aligned speaker.
The court said: “The answering affidavit signed by [Gauteng Premier David Makhura] sets out in detail that the Gauteng government was aware of the collapse of municipal council meetings as well as the role of ANC and EFF councillors in causing these collapses.
“No basis is provided in the answering affidavit as to why only the speaker was targeted for corrective action while there were more and bigger issues at stake.”
The court said that, in its view, the most direct cause of the council’s inability to conduct its business was the continued disruptions of council meetings by ANC and EFF councillors staging walkouts.
It held that such conduct was neither prioritised nor addressed by the MEC, despite its centrality in the conundrum, and that Maile failed to use the code of conduct that governs the behaviour of councillors, including addressing their walkouts and enforcing their statutory duty to attend meetings and stay in attendance.
It said the walkouts had been crippling the council and preventing it from fulfilling its obligations, but Maile had looked the other way.
I see little prospect of Maile winning this one, and wonder why taxpayers have to fund this personal crusade.