Sakeliga and partners initiate legal proceedings against National Government over failing Eastern Cape municipality


Sakeliga and our local partners have initiated legal proceedings against National Government over the rolling state failure that enables the Enoch Mgijima Municipality’s collapse.  

The litigation aims to secure interim relief for businesses and residents of Queenstown and other affected towns, while developing permanent jurisprudence for greater oversight and intervention by organised business.  

Notwithstanding similarities to other collapsed municipalities, the Enoch Mgijima Municipality case offers a distinct and promising factual basis for strategic litigation. Sakeliga is therefore adding the municipality to our portfolio of litigation regarding municipal collapse, by which it develops mutually reinforcing judgments that increase accountability where possible, but otherwise facilitate stateproof, community-based solutions where necessary. 

The Enoch Mgijima Municipality is in complete collapse, despite having been under national administration in terms of section 139(7) of the Constitution since 6 April 2022. This is the highest form of administration for which the Constitution provides. This notwithstanding, the dire situation in the towns serviced by the municipality has not improved. The municipality owes Eskom almost R1 billion, while service delivery funds are allocated towards ballooning wage bills. Service delivery and infrastructure have all but collapsed despite piling debtors’ accounts. Queenstown and other affected towns are frequently subjected to unrest, as exemplified by more than 2,000 residents embarking on a shutdown of Komani on 26 and 27 January 2023. 

At Sakeliga, we and our partners are well aware that court orders compelling national government’s intervention will be insufficient to restore order and prosperity, given its track record of rolling state failure. We therefore craft our litigation here and elsewhere to anticipate non-compliance with court orders by national government and other levels of the executive arm of the state. This entails preparing for successive and concurrent court applications, each extending jurisprudential recognition of and protection for direct interventions by the business community, under supervision of the court, for as long as required. 

While the litigation we are now initiating in Enoch Mgijima, like those elsewhere, seeks to provide urgent interim relief, we caution that litigation is complex and frequently entails delays. Besides bringing urgent relief as soon as possible, we foresee that the further strategic goals of greater recognition of supervision and intervention by the business community will only be achieved incrementally over time.  
In collaboration with our partners, the Border-Kei Chamber of Business: Komani Branch and CRAEM (Civic and Ratepayers Association of Enoch Mgijima), Sakeliga has now sent a letter of demand to National Government. We demand that National Government, particularly the Minister of Finance, invoke their powers to: 

  • dissolve the municipal council of Enoch Mgijima 
  • immediately implement the municipal financial recovery plan approved by the Minister of Finance and to ensure its immediate and expedited implementation 
  • agree to continued and meaningful engagement with Sakeliga and our partners regarding the recovery of the municipality and the implementation of the municipal financial recovery plan.  

Sakeliga’s involvement in Enoch Mgijima forms part of litigation strategy to craft, step-by-step, a legal framework within which business-communities can supervise and intervene to restore order and prosperity in their local economies. We consider this a crucial and urgent endeavour to the benefit of local communities and in the interest of a stable society.  

Read more about Sakeliga’s municipal litigation in other municipalities: 

North West: (here and here). 

Limpopo: (here and here).