After missing multiple late filing deadlines consented to by Sakeliga, government respondents in Sakeliga’s paymaster case in North West finally filed opposing papers. The respondents, including the Minister of Finance, Minister of Cooperative Governance and the Premier of the North West, have now filed opposing affidavits, but have failed to raise a proper defence.
Sakeliga is asking the court that Ditsobotla and Naledi municipalities be placed under compulsory provincial administration as required by the constitution and legislation*, and that a special independent paymaster be appointed in the meantime to pay collections for Eskom and other critical service providers directly to them, so that service delivery can ensue.
In response, the government now claims in its opposing papers that the case was brought prematurely as the provincial government of North West – so it is alleged – has already initiated a process to place municipalities in North West under compulsory administration. However, these allegations are made in the absence of necessary supporting documentary evidence and appear to constitute an attempt to postpone difficult political decisions indefinitely.
“Their own reports indicate that the provincial government as well as the national treasury have now been aware of the decay of municipalities in North West for more than seven years. Yet there has been a constant failure to execute compulsory provincial intervention, as required by the Constitution when municipalities are plunged into debt and unable to meet basic obligations. For the government to now claim, in response to Sakeliga’s case, that they are already in the process of initiating compulsory provincial administration over failed municipalities, is insufficient. The failure at municipal level is the result of years of mismanagement that was simply allowed under the supervision of the provincial and national governments. Sakeliga demands immediate and real intervention, because the government plans but nothing happens in practice,” says Piet le Roux, CEO of Sakeliga.
As the government did not raise a proper and corroborated defence in their court documents, Sakeliga is now requesting various documents from the respondents in terms of the court rules, including reports and resolutions which the respondents should in fact have attached to their papers. This includes documents to substantiate their allegations that they have indeed considered compulsory administration and decided in a timely manner to proceed with it.
“It seems as if the government here, in the absence of proper legal arguments, is attempting to prevent legitimate intervention in municipalities in the North West. Our inference is that the obstructive behaviour is related to the intertwined political interests of officials at both municipal and provincial level, which would clearly be threatened should financial control and accountability at local level be restored.”
The case will soon be placed on the roll of the High Court in Mahikeng for hearing. Sakeliga, however, first requires corroborating documentary evidence to be filed by the respondents.
“Sakeliga is confident that this paymaster case constitutes a correct and effective strategy to address state decay and corruption at municipal level, so that proper service delivery can ensue. Where municipalities cannot maintain proper bookkeeping, administration or service delivery, it is essential that alternative solutions prevent an implosion of local economies and communities.”
* Section 139(5) of the Constitution provides that if a municipality, as a result of a crisis in its financial affairs, is in serious or persistent material failure to fulfil its obligations to provide basic services or to meet its financial undertakings, the relevant provincial executive must intervene.