The North West Provincial Government was ordered to accept responsibility today for the crisis in Ditsobotla, to consult with Sakeliga about it and to report to Sakeliga every three months.
Sakeliga has been litigating against the Provincial Government, the Minister of Finance, the President of South Africa and others over the collapse in Ditsobotla Local Municipality for the past two years.
The order stipulates that the Provincial Government will now report in writing to Sakeliga, role players and the court every three months. In the absence of progress, Sakeliga will be entitled to supplement our existing court application for compulsory administration by the National Government. The Provincial Government was also ordered to meaningfully consult with Sakeliga and our representatives on everything related to Ditsobotla’s decline and recovery.
The Provincial Government was ordered to pay the greater part of the case’s costs. However, the court must now decide whether it is the Provincial Government, the Municipality or any of the other role players that should be held liable for the remaining part of the costs incurred by Sakeliga since 2021.
Although the court order is an important step for solutions against municipal decay, it is not the end of the road. There are currently no examples of successful provincial or national administration of collapsed municipalities. Therefore, even though we will fulfil our monitoring role in terms of the court order, we stand ready to escalate the litigation for compulsory administration under the National Government. We also reserve the right to present further interim or permanent remedies to the court at the first appropriate opportunity, including options such as an auditing firm that can take financial control as a special master.
A realistic strategy for restoring local economies cannot rely solely on litigation – it must also include the creation of alternative service delivery mechanisms and other structures. We therefore particularly welcome the alternative solutions that local businesspeople are already developing, in particular the establishment of the Ditsobotla Dienstevereniging (Ditsobotla Services Association). The Services Association intends to collect funds from businesspeople and residents and then use it in negotiations with the government, or alternatively to provide services themselves.
The order was delivered in the second of two court cases by Sakeliga which were heard on 5 and 6 October. The first of the two cases is Sakeliga’s initial application from 2021, for compulsory provincial administration and an interim special master, in which judgment on costs is reserved. In it, the government implemented Sakeliga’s pleas for provincial administration before the case progressed to trial. Sakeliga is therefore also entitled to costs in the special master case.
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