National intervention sought in court challenge over embattled Mafube municipality

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  • The Free State High Court in Bloemfontein is to hear a court application that AfriForum and the Mafube Business Forum lodged against President Cyril Ramaphosa and 16 others.
  • The two organisations want the court to declare that national intervention is needed in the embattled Mafube Local Municipality.
  • In an unprecedented move, the business forum also wants the court to allow it to run the municipality's affairs in the interim.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, the premier of the Free State, the province's Cogta MEC and 14 others are at the centre of a court challenge before the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein over service delivery in the embattled Mafube Local Municipality.

Lobby group AfriForum and the Mafube Business Forum launched the court challenge on behalf of residents and the business community in Frankfort.

The two bodies argue in court papers, which News24 has seen, that the municipality is in breach of its constitutional mandate for failing to ensure the provision of services to the community in a sustainable manner, and for its inability to promote a safe and healthy environment for the community. 

They want the court to declare that provincial intervention in the municipality failed and that national intervention in terms of Section 139(7) of the Constitution is necessary.

"In failing to structure and manage its administration, budgeting and planning processes; in failing to give priority to the basic needs of its community; and in failing to promote the social and economic development of its community, the municipality is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa," the court papers read.

READ | He cleaned the dirty streets of Mafube, now the community wants him to be an independent councillor

The organisations also want the council to be dissolved and for an administrator to manage the affairs of the municipality and ensure service delivery until a new council is elected. 

Jacques Jansen van Vuuren of the Mafube Business Forum says it's seeking comprehensive legal advice on whether it can run the municipality on behalf of the community of Frankfort in the interim.

"Among others, we are seeking an order that would give us the right to manage a variety of municipal services for a limited period until the national government intervenes to restore service delivery. The rendering of these management services will be funded from the fiscus. We hope for a favourable court ruling after a drawn-out fight over many years with the municipality to render basic services. The community is sick and tired of empty promises and corruption," he said

He added that even though Frankfort was the hometown of Premier Sisi Ntombela, residents have received no municipal services.

"The municipality is officially bankrupt; regular water shortages, no refuse removal, a dysfunctional sewage system, and potholes are but a few of the problems that all residents of this town have to deal with. Moreover, the municipality has not sent any municipal accounts for various years now."

READ | Company director, acting municipal manager charged with tender fraud at the Mafube Local Municipality

The applicants also want the approval of a temporary budget or revenue-raising measures that give effect to the financial recovery plan in the meantime. 

The organisations are attempting to get the court to compel the municipality to take immediate action to curb pollution of the Vaal River or any other water sources in the municipality.

In 2017, Ntombela put the municipality under Section 139 (1)(b) administration – a move that was described at the time as long overdue.

However, there seemed to be no improvements in service delivery and in the municipality's financials. 

More and more fed up South Africans and civil society organisations are taking municipalities to court over failed service delivery. 

In the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape, Let's Talk Komani lodged a court application against the premier and others, seeking a mandatory intervention in terms of Section 139 of the Constitution.

The Save Emalahleni Action Group also approached the courts to compel the province to invoke a mandatory intervention in the Emalahleni Local Municipality. The parties consented to an order for mandatory intervention.

In the Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality, also in the Free State, the Harrismith Business Forum approached the court for an interdict to prevent Eskom from discontinuing electricity supply to the municipality and to compel the national government to intervene in terms of Section 139(7) of the Constitution. The parties consented to an order for the establishment of a consultative committee, chaired by the Cogta minister, and the preparation of a financial recovery plan.

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