Depoliticising municipalities: Ramaphosa signs law barring municipal managers from political office

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill.
  • The Bill bars municipal and senior managers from holding political office.
  • The legislation prevents top brass in municipalities from holding political office in a party, whether in a permanent, temporary, or acting capacity.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, which bars municipal managers and senior managers from holding political office.

According to the Parliamentary Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC), Ramaphosa signed the bill on 16 August 2022. The National Assembly passed the Bill in December 2020.

It prevents municipal managers, and senior managers who are directly accountable to municipal managers, from holding political office, whether they have been appointed in a permanent, temporary or acting capacity.

Section 71B also prevents staff members from holding political office.

"A staff member may not hold political office in a political party, whether in a permanent, temporary or acting capacity. A person who has been appointed as a staff member before [the legislation] takes effect, must comply with [it] within one year of the commencement of [the legislation]," it reads.

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It defines political office as a position of chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, deputy secretary or treasurer of a political party nationally or in any province, region or other area in which the party operates.

The 2011 Amendment Act, which this Bill will replace, had a similar political office ban but it only applied to municipal managers and their direct reports.

The legislation also provides for the repeal of the Municipal Systems Amendment Act of 2011 which was declared unconstitutional in 2017, for its failure to comply with the procedures as set out in Section 76 of the Constitution. The Act was tagged as a Section 75, instead of a Section 76, Bill.

In her audit of municipal figures for the 2020/21 financial year, Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke reported that R21.10 billion of irregular expenditure was incurred at a local government level, mainly due to non-compliance with supply chain legislation.

Maluleke also reported that only 62 municipalities gave her office credible statements when the audit season began.

READ | Skills shortages in municipalities a reflection of the country as a whole - Dlamini-Zuma

A whopping R10.4 billion was paid to municipal finance units in salaries, yet only 25% of the 257 municipalities across the country could produce credible financial statements to her team.

Municipalities also spent R1.26 billion to hire financial consultants to assist them in compiling their financial statements.

Earlier this month, News24 reported that municipal ward councillors across the country were not appropriately skilled in managing council affairs, and that some even struggled to write reports and do presentations.

These were some of the findings of a development strategy for councillors, which was spearheaded by the Local Government Sector Education and Training Authority.

In respect of municipal financial management, critical skills gaps were identified in, among others, financial governance, municipal financial management and reporting, and municipal procurement.

The development strategy highlighted skills shortages in interpersonal and presentation skills, as well as report writing.

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