Makana Municipality has lost its bid to appeal a contempt of court judgment that could see its Mayor and Municipal Manager committed to six months imprisonment. Earlier this year Judge Miki Mfenyana ruled the three were in contempt of court for failing to comply with a five-year-old order to properly manage the Cradock road landfill.
Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) Judges Mahomed Navsa and AJJA Poyo-Dlwati have dismissed their application to appeal the March 2020 ruling by Judge Miki Mfenyana.
In 2015, Judge Jeremy Pickering handed down a detailed court order requiring Makana Municipality to undertake specific actions to ensure the safe and environmentally sound operation of the landfill site west of the town. The applicants in the matter were the Makana Unity League (MUL), and following a subsequent series of fires at the site over several years, they sought to have Makana held in contempt of court.
They singled out the political and administrative heads, seeking to hold the Mayor and Municipal Manager personally liable.
Judge Mfenyana ruled they were indeed in contempt of court and sentenced them to six months imprisonment, wholly suspended if the conditions of Judge Pickering’s court order were met. Mfenyana dismissed Makana’s application for leave to appeal and they lodged an application with the SCA on 16 September. Judgment dismissing the SCA application was made on 18 November and the parties were informed on 27 November.
Municipal Manager Moppo Mene referred Grocott’s Mail’s request for comment on the appeal judgment to the Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa.
Mpahlwa said the verdict was disappointing.
“We have to wait for the lawyers to see the actual order. They will then come and brief us and advise if there are any options,” said Mpahlwa. “From this judgment it is clear the SCA found no prospects of another court finding differently. That is obviously disappointing.
The judgment had emanated from a court order of 2015, Mpahlwa noted.
“None of us were here at that time. We inherited that case and had to take it on as part of our responsibility.
“When the MUL applied to the court to say we were in contempt, we did not sit down: we took steps to address that problem,” Mpahlwa said. “Because we don’t have in-house capacity to deal with the landfill – managing a waste site is very complex – we appointed service provider to assist to manage the site and attend to the [defects]the court found.
“We sought to make the litigants aware of every step we took. Also our officials were required to report to the court. My understanding was that proceeding under close observation by the litigantsmeant they knew we were taking it seriously.”
Owen Skae, who is the applicant representing the Makana Unity League in the matter, said, “When we embarked on this court action way back in 2015, it was always with the intention of (as we state in the most recent court papers), striving to achieve a better quality life for all by realising the delivery and management of essential services, especially water supply, sanitation, power, clean air and housing for all the residents of Makana municipality. There was no other motive.
“Instead of dealing with Judge Pickering’s order, the municipality opted to not fulfil what it was required to do. Consequently (and we make no apology for it), we were left with no choice but to continue on the path we had chosen, otherwise nothing would have been done.
“In dismissing the leave to appeal, the SCA has confirmed that municipal officials cannot use court action as a way to undermine the rights of citizens, and so this should be an important lesson to all who just don’t do their jobs.”