DA takes Kouga municipality to court over unlawful appointments

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has filed court papers in the Port Elizabeth High Court against the Kouga Municipality because of the unlawful and procedurally incorrect appointment of five new directors, and has called for these appointments to be set aside and for the entire process to start again.

In the DA’s founding affidavit, which was lodged on 1 August 2012, the entire procedure of the appointments was questioned in terms of compliance with the various local government acts, regulations and circulars by the national Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and the provincial Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs (DLGTA).

The DA served notices on the municipal manager, the mayor, all councillors of the ANC led mayoral committee, the remaining ANC councillors and the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, as well as the five newly appointed directors.

In response Kouga Municipality agreed that:

  • The mayor and his mayoral committee, in their eagerness to deploy their cadres, held a mayoral committee meeting on 11 June 2012 at which it was decided to appoint the five directors, thereby flaunting the law;
  • Phone calls were made to the applicants to confirm their appointments on the same day;
  • The phone calls were followed by written confirmation, signed by the mayor (not the municipal manager), the next day (12 June) appointing them for a fixed term of five years;
  • The mayor and the mayoral committee have no such delegated powers; only a full council may sanction such appointments;
  • A full council approved the unlawful appointments with a majority vote in spite of a four- hour debate in which the DA councillors pointed out the unlawfulness of their action;
  • Kouga Municipality is now blaming MEC Qoboshiyane for failing in his duties to stop the unlawful appointments;
  • No contracts have been signed with the new directors, who started work on 1 August 2012;
  • These posts were advertised for a remuneration package of R780,000 per annum but within the first month the new directors received a salary increase to R830,700 p.a.

“The fact remains that the appointments were unlawful when no procedures were followed from the start,” said the DA Leader, National Council of Provinces, Elza van Lingen.

Van Lingen said the selection panel, under the chairmanship of Cllr Vernon Stuurman, called meetings and cancelled them, notices of meetings were sent by sms on some occasions at the start of the meetings, CVs of candidates were not presented to the panel, candidates were not scored to determine who was the best candidate, the panel transgressed the municipality’s own recruitment policy, etc.

“MEC Qoboshiyane has been warned by the DA since 4 May 2012, when a Kouga DA caucus delegation met with him in Bhisho.  Further letters followed from DA provincial leader Athol Trollip, DA Kouga caucus leader, Dr. Chimpie Cawood, and letters by me.  The MEC was called upon to intervene at an early stage to intervene and stop the irregular steps, but he failed in his duty and responsibility to oversee local government in Kouga and the province,” she said.

Van Lingen  said the MEC did however inform the councillors in Jeffreys Bay of the processes to be followed in the selection processes of the Section 56 managers on 16 April 2012.

In the DA affidavit and the replying statement (filed on Thursday 27 September 2012) it is clear from all the supporting documents that:

  • The mayor, the mayoral committee and the other ANC councillors transgressed the law, deliberately as per the supporting documents;
  • The ANC resorted to a council meeting to right their wrongs with a majority vote on 29 June for the usual ANC “rubber stamp” action;
  • The ANC lied in council on 29 June 2012 when they denied that there was a mayoral meeting on 11 June and that they appointed the directors;
  • The DA in the council debate highlighted the various transgressions, warning that according to the new Municipal Systems Act, as amended, a councillor may not vote for transgressions of the Systems Act, the Structures Act or the Constitution;
  • The ANC councillors were also warned that they can, according to the Systems Act (as amended), be held personally and individually financially liable for the legal costs in such unlawful cases.

“Booi Koerat, the mayor, has been bemoaning the extent of the legal costs of the municipality in the press this week, but if the ANC councillors stuck to the letter of the law, they would not have to spend so much of the ratepayers’ money on legal fees,” said Van Lingen.