The civil rights group AfriForum is now also appealing to the court to have the Tshwane Metro Council’s final budget – which was approved by the administrator on 30 June – set aside.
Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance, Lebogang Maile, appointed Mpho Nawa as administrator of the city in March this year.
AfriForum says, however, that it must be asked why the capital has been placed under administration, while it is even more miserable at various other municipalities in the province.
Morné Mostert, manager of local government affairs at AfriForum, says that this “coup” of the metro council is planned in such a way that it does not give any powers to a democratically elected council.
Mostert says that in the case where a municipality is placed under administration, provisions in the Constitution and the Public Municipal Finance Management Act must be complied with. The organization argues that an administrator does not have the power to approve a final budget – as Nawa did and maintains he was empowered to do – and that only the provincial executive or the national executive may do so, a council would be dissolved.
According to Mostert, this power may not be delegated to an administrator.
AfriForum is now asking the court to set aside the final budget and ensure that a new, interim budget is approved. This process requires proper public participation from the public.
“The effect of the dissolution of the council was that the administrator pushed through certain policies without proper public participation,” says Mostert.
He says one of the consequences of the dissolution was a change in the metro council’s water tariffs without any debate in the council. Residents of Tshwane nowadays pay a total of R120 per nine kiloliters of water – and the amount is immediately charged from an account holder, even before any water has been used. Mostert says this puts poorer households in a particularly difficult position.
Another negative effect is the continued decline of service delivery in the city. Garbage has not been removed at all for about two weeks now and in some places rubbish dumps have been closed and residents dump their rubbish in front of the gates.
The biggest impact, however, is probably the hordes of erroneous bills that the metro council sends out. AfriForum says it has recently been overwhelmed by complaints about excessively high bills.
Mostert says where the city has previously tried to help correct mistakes, it would appear that this attitude has changed under the administrator.
“We now see that the city is sending out a notice as soon as possible that residents’ power will be cut off,” he said.
AfriForum has encouraged residents who wish to report incorrect accounts to declare a dispute with the municipality. Once such a dispute is declared, the power to a business or home may not be cut off until the issue is resolved.