Former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI
Former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI

The political leadership saga in SA’s administrative capital continues, with the DA planning to elect a mayor on Friday and the ANC-led provincial government vowing to fight it in the courts.

Friday’s election attempt comes after the high court on Wednesday ordered that an earlier judgment, which overturned the dissolution of the council, be implemented pending the outcome of further applications for leave to appeal. The Constitutional Court has set the matter down for September 10.

DA mayoral candidate Randall Williams said in a briefing on Wednesday that a council meeting will be held on Friday at which a mayor will be elected.

If the election succeeds, it will be the third mayor for the city since the local government elections in 2016. Solly Msimanga was elected the DA’s first mayor in 2016 but resigned ahead of the 2019 general elections to focus on a failed bid to be Gauteng’s premier. His successor, Stevens Mokgalapa, resigned in the wake of a sex scandal. Since then the council has been unable to elect a new mayor.

“In short, the legitimate councillors will now return to office and the ANC-imposed administrators must vacate the city,” Williams said.

But Lebogang Maile, MEC of co-operative governance in Gauteng, said in a statement on Wednesday the ANC will lodge an urgent appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal in terms of  section 18(4) of the Superior Courts Act, “which grants us an automatic right of appeal to a higher court”. 

He said the party is of the view that the court erred.  

“Whilst this appeal process unfolds, the administrator and the team of experts will continue with the running of the affairs of the City of Tshwane, until the appeal process is finalised.

“We are confident that another court will take a different view to the one taken by the high court, with the aim of strengthening governance and accountability within our democratic establishment,” Maile said.

The City of Tshwane, which was governed by a minority DA-led coalition, was placed under administration by the provincial government in March 2020 after it took issue with the fact that the city had no mayor, mayoral committee or municipal manager.

Council meetings had become dysfunctional for months, but the controversial decision to dissolve the council and appoint an administrator, which is the most severe form of intervention a provincial government can take in dealing with local government, was set aside by the high court in Pretoria at the end of April.

The decision to dissolve the council was taken by the ANC-led provincial government, and the DA has accused the governing party of trying to snatch power via the back door after it lost its majority in the metro during the 2016 local government elections.

The provincial government, the ANC and the EFF had appealed against the judgment that overturned the dissolution of the council, ordered that a mayor be elected, and that councillors of the EFF and the ANC attend council meetings.

Multiple meetings of the council had collapsed due to the two parties either walking out of chambers, or not pitching up for meetings.  

‘Irreparable harm’

In ordering that the April judgment be implemented, the high court said on Wednesday the constitution only provides that an administrator be in the post for 90 days, with an election required to elect new councillors who would make up the new council after the dissolution.

“The citizens of the city have a fundamental, constitutional right to be governed by those they elected. The denial of this right for longer than the constitutionally permitted 90 days would, in our view, constitute irreparable harm,” the court said.

If the DA’s application had been refused, an unelected administrator would have remained in place for a period beyond that envisaged in the constitution, it said.

The 90 days would have been up this week, and by-elections countrywide have been postponed due to the lockdown implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The court said it cannot be overlooked that the administrator was appointed by the provincial government, which was governed by a party — the ANC — that did not win the elections in Tshwane in 2016.  

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