Johannesburg – The Gauteng government has insisted that the water supply crisis that hit Hammanskraal late last year provided strong grounds for the dissolution of the Tshwane council.
This position is detailed in legal papers setting out Premier David Makhura and Co-operative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile’s grounds for seeking to appeal a High Court ruling that set aside the decision to place Tshwane under administration.
The papers have been filed at the Constitutional Court, where Makhura and Maile sought to appeal the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, judgment that went in favour of the DA.
The high court delivered its ruling in April. It found Maile’s decision to place the strife-torn Tshwane council under administration inappropriate, saying he could have taken “less intrusive measures”.
Maile appointed Mpho Nawa as administrator of the metro formerly run by a DA-led coalition in March. Nawa remained in place given the appeal application by Makhura and Maile.
Judges Dunstan Mlambo, Sulet Potterill and Natvarlil Ranchod accepted that the council had reached a deadlock and could no longer conduct its business.
The deadlock meant it could not even elect a mayor, municipal manager and mayoral committees.
But the root cause of the council’s strife were the walkouts of ANC and EFF councillors, the judges found.
“Such conduct was not prioritised nor addressed by the MEC, despite its centrality in the Council’s conundrum,” they said.
Makhura and Maile submitted in their papers that this finding was “in conflict with the evidence”.
They said the root cause of the council’s crisis was the collapse of the voting arrangement between the DA and the EFF.
“The coalition agreement between the EFF and the DA collapsed and as a result of this, a crisis unfolded in Tshwane,” said the affidavit.
Maile ended up with ample valid reasons to dissolve the council.
“The two most pressing were probably the water crisis in Hammanskraal and the deadlocked Council,” said the affidavit.
“As for the water crisis, the High Court accepted that the crisis remains unresolved. The High Court also accepted that this amounted to an unfulfilled executive obligation.
“But, according to the High Court, it was not enough to justify dissolving the Council because the issue could have been the subject of targeted intervention by the Gauteng EC, in the spirit of cooperative governance.”
There could not have been a more critical ground to put Tshwane under administration than the water supply crisis in Hammanskraal, the affidavit stressed.
“People living without water is ’exceptional’ and dissolving the council is a rational way to ensure that more decisive steps are taken to address the crisis.”
Judges Mlambo, Potterill and Ranchod said Maile could have intervened in the Hammanskraal water issue, “in the spirit of cooperative governance”.
The issue did not amount to enough circumstances to provide the Gauteng executive council with the latitude to dissolve the Tshwane council, they ruled.
Makhura and Maile denied that the provincial government dissolved the council “as part of some backroom political power grab”.
The Constitutional Court will hear the matter in September.