The City of Tshwane. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The City of Tshwane. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

For the first time in democratic SA, one of the country’s eight metros, the capital city of Tshwane, has been placed under administration and will now go to fresh elections about a year before the next local poll.

This decision was taken by the ANC-led Gauteng government in the wake of a political impasse, which has threatened service delivery in the metro, which accounts for about 9% of SA’s GDP.

Tshwane has no mayor, no mayoral council and no municipal manager, which means the municipality, in which council meetings have been collapsing since November, is leaderless. The decision, announced by Gauteng premier David Makhura on Thursday, means the council will be dissolved and an administrator appointed to run the municipality until elections, which have to take place within 90 days.  

The mayoral position became vacant as a result of the former incumbent, the DA’s Stevens Mokgalapa resigning in the wake of a sex scandal.

Makhura said the decision was informed by “ongoing mismanagement” in the city, which included the “flagrant disregard” for the Municipal Finance Management Act, such as the irregular contract with engineering consultants GladAfrica. He also referred to the failure to spend conditional grants and the inability to pay all its creditors.

“The city is not just leaderless, it is rudderless. There is no direction, there is no service delivery in the city. The current uncertainty, instability, inaction and collapse of service delivery must be confronted fearlessly and stopped in its tracks,” Makhura said.

The city accounts for a quarter of Gauteng’s GDP and its collapse has broader implications for SA’s economic heartland. “If a metro grinds to halt in the way the City of Tshwane has, it has a huge bearing on the economy of our province,” he said.

Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) spokesperson Kate Bapela confirmed that this was the first time a metro has been dissolved since democracy. 

Tshwane was one of three metros in which a DA-led administration took over after the 2016 local government elections. The DA has since also lost control of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, effectively reversing the gains made in 2016.

However, while Makhura said the decision would pass constitutional and legal muster, the DA is consulting its lawyers to determine what legal avenues the party can pursue, Mike Moriarty, the party’s provincial chair said.

“The simple truth is that when the ANC fails to win an election, it resorts to undemocratic and non-procedural means to get back power; what has happened in Tshwane demonstrates this,” he said.

Moriarty said it was clear that the city of Tshwane had the “full intention to work with the provincial government but was declined the opportunity for political gain”.

The EFF, which is the kingmaker in the metro, said it welcomes the decision, saying, “We are ready to go into a fresh round of elections and will organise our membership and ground forces towards a decisive victory.”

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