Lichtenburg under “gangsterism” management, but government drags feet


“This place is managed by gangsterism” – these were the words used by the director-general of a national government department to describe the Ditsobotla Municipality. The admission came in a meeting held on Friday morning, 30 September, between government representatives, Sakeliga, and various parties interested in and affected by the failure of Ditsobotla Municipality. Nevertheless, the government at national and provincial level are still dragging their feet over taking control and restoring critical service delivery.

The meeting was held following demands made by Sakeliga last week to President Cyril Ramaphosa, as head of the national government, and Premier Bushy Maape, as head of the provincial government, to explain their position regarding the crisis in Lichtenburg and what they intend doing about it. On top of many years of mismanagement and decay in the town, the government this month caused an acute crisis by making decisions regarding the dissolution of the municipal council and administration, but without appointing an administrator or making funds available.

During the meeting, government officials communicated the following to Sakeliga:

  1. An administrator has been appointed but has not assumed duty yet.
  2. The administrator will assume duty only on an undetermined date, after the provincial government has received approval from the national council of provinces for taking over the administration in terms of section 139(1) of the Constitution. They are hoping this will happen soon.
  3. The equitable share funding is still being withheld, pending not only the appointment of the administrator but possibly also the solution of disputes over who in Ditsobotla is actually the municipal manager, as well as the appointment of a financial officer since the municipality lacks even this.
  4. The provincial government placed the Ditsobotla Municipality under administration in terms of section 139(5)* of the Constitution as far back as 24 November 2021.

Sakeliga informed the government officials that we could not resign ourselves to vague intentions and explanations concerning administrative processes while a business sector and a community were being deprived of basic services. We wanted satisfactory feedback and restoration of critical services such as water supply by Monday. Sakeliga also pointed out that both the national and the provincial government failed to reply to a list of questions by Sakeliga and to furnish us and the community with essential information.

Consequently, Sakeliga is proceeding with preparing for urgent relief. We offered to the government officials that, should there be any legal aspects preventing them from implementing urgent restorative measures in Ditsobotla, we would include it in our litigation to remove such impediments, relying on section 172 of the Constitution.

Sakeliga emphasised that in spite of ongoing legal action specifically requesting section 139(5) administration, we had never been informed about it by the provincial government or any of the other respondents. This failure and other aggravating actions and failures will be submitted to Sakeliga’s legal team for consideration regarding not only the urgent legal action that resulted in the meeting, but also Sakeliga’s special master court case. The special master court case is a long-term legal strategy for the appointment of independent auditors under supervision of the court to manage core aspects of municipal finances. For more about the special master court case, click here.

*Section 139(5) administration is a more robust form of administration where a financial recovery plan must be prepared and implemented, under the supervision of national treasury.