While an alliance of civil society organisations has hailed as a triumph the appointment of a specialist administrator to turn around Makana’s fortunes, the Council is having none of it. And with no end in sight to Paul Notyawa’s bid to be appointed as municipal manager, a special Council meeting last week saw the appointment of the municipality’s new Director of Corporate Services as acting MM.
In a week when the Concerned Citizens to Save Makana (CCSM) fully expected to meet the specialist executive administrator they understood had been appointed, Chief Whip in the Council’s ANC caucus Mabhuti Matyumza was at pains to dispel the notion that any outside party was about to take charge.
In a statement dated 23 September the CCSM, which comprises the Grahamstown Business Forum, Grahamstown Residents Association and Makana Unity League, said the appointment of a specialist executive administrator for Makana Municipality had been faciliated through the offices of The Premier of the Eastern Cape. The move had come after months of engagement with local, Provincial and National government structures, the CCSM said.
“The new administrator is scheduled to commence duties as soon as Thursday 28 September, subject to the conclusion of statutory formalities with the Makana Council,” read the statement, signed by Ron Weissenberg (who is also a Grocott’s Mail columnist).
In terms of the Municipal Systems Act, those formalities include a resolution accepting such an appointment taken at a full council meeting.
While a special council meeting was held on Wednesday 27 September, no such resolution was taken and the open section of the meeting was limited to the appointment of a new acting municipal manager. The statutory maximum three-month term of the incumbent, Dali Mlenzana, ended on Wednesday. A special application must be made to the MEC for local government for an acting MM term to be extended. Instead, Makana’s new Director of Corporate Services, Nomthandazo Mazwai, was appointed in the acting role. (read about the new Director on Page 9).
Matyumza, who is Chair of the ANC’s Makana Subregion, stood up in Wednesday’s Council meeting and said emphatically, “Wrong information was put out that we were given an administrator.”
Matyumza said according to a 21 September report from the Mayor, the municipality had submitted a request to the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs for a secondment.
“The request is receiving attention and as soon as an individual has been identified, she or he will be sent to the municipality to act as Municipal Manager.”
Matyumza said the acting MM would be effective from 28 September, month to month, up to three months.
“The acting period will end “as soon as the seconded official from Cogta is appointed.”
Meanwhile, former councillor Paul Notyawa has applied for leave to appeal the judgment in the High Court in Grahamstown last month dismissing with costs his bid to have Makana and the Co-operative Governance MEC declare him to have been lawfully appointed as municipal manager in March 2015.
In a complex judgment Judge Judith Roberson said the terms under which the application had been brought were incorrect and this is one of the points of the judgment being disputed by Notyawa’s legal team.
Makana Municipality declined to comment on Notyawa’s possible appeal. “We won’t be able to comment because this is sub judice,” spokesperson Yoliswa Ramokolo said.
Grocott’s Mail asked Rhodes Politics lecturer Wesley Seale how to interpret what appeared to be a turnaround on the part of the Premier’s Office, and whether this week’s dynamics in the Makana Council might relate to this weekend’s ANC provincial elective conference.
“First, I would be extremely surprised that a move to put in an administrator would come from the Premier’s office,” Seale said. “The Makana group going to the conference this weekend would certainly be on the side of the Premier. Someone like Mabhuti would certainly have been working for Masualle to be re-elected.
“If Mabhuti and co were supporting the opposing faction, Masualle would have no problem in clipping their wings and access to resources. I was really surprised that the premier would do that. The version you’ve put to me now makes more sense – that they would push, before there’s any action from the Premier’s office, to push this new person who is positioned to be the saviour of the municipality. That is more likely to have happened.
“But I cannot see the Premier at a provincial level doing that to his support on the ground. Unless of course something drastic happened and they no longer support him. Masualle is trying to hold on to the position [of provincial chairperson]and is having a tough time at the moment. So it is startling to suggest that he would have done this from his office.
“It is interesting that there is no MEC mentioned. Had there been an MEC for example that was in the opposing team, that would have been a notable dynamic. But the fact that there’s no MEC mentioned and that it’s between the Premier’s office and Makana MunicIpality – it doesn’t add up.”
When can administration be called for?
The provincial government has a responsibility for monitoring and support as defined by the Municipal Systems Act. According to this Act, when a municipality doesn’t fulfil its Constitutional or legislative obligations, the application of Section 139 of the Constitution applies.
It was in terms of Section 139(b) that the municipality’s former administrator Pam Yako was appointed in 2014.
The SA Local Government Association says, “If a municipality, as a result of a crisis in its financial affairs is in serious or persistent breach of its obligations to provide basic services or to meet its financial commitments” that Provincial interventions should be applied.
Non-performance and maladministration fall under Section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act.
In a statement on 8 August, the CCSM said they had set the deadline of 27 September to appoint a suitably skilled turnaround specialist “to lead the Municipality in providing a balanced budget, service delivery, appointment of suitable management and addressing the critical needs of the Makana populace”.
The CCSM said failing this, it might consider pursuing demands for Section 139(5) specialist administration.