Political parties may no longer deploy cadres into top municipal positions now that the Municipal Systems Bill has been signed into law by President Jacob Zuma.
In addition to prohibiting senior party office bearers from holding top municipal jobs, the new legislation aims to ensure that municipalities are managed by skilled people. The act also stipulates that any municipal official found guilty of fraud and corruption may not be hired for 10 years after conviction.
These new requirements follow a recent finding by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that Hessequa mayor Christopher Taute had abused his power by soliciting funds from businesses for the African National Congress’ s (ANC’s) May municipal election campaign.
Zuma, who signed the bill at the weekend, faced pressure from the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) not to sign the bill after Parliament passed it in April.
Samwu had raised concern about several clauses in the bill, particularly the one prohibiting senior party members from holding top municipal jobs. The union said this would limit individuals’ right of association.
The 115000-strong union threatened to withdraw its support for the ANC in the May election in protest against the bill.
Samwu general secretary Mthandeki Nhlapo said yesterday the union would not comment.
“We have decided not to issue any comment on this matter until after our special central executive committee meeting on Thursday when we will discuss this issue,” Nhlapo said.
There are indications the union will embark on a strike in the next few weeks to show its dissatisfaction with the new law.
The South African Local Government Association’s spokeswoman, Melissa Kentane, said yesterday the association would ensure that all councillors and municipal officials were aware of the act and its implications on municipal operations.
“Guidelines will be circulated and, if requested, legal opinions will be provided,” Kentane said. She said the prescribed municipal skills and competencies had not yet been published for consultation.
Last month the auditor-general complained that up to 80% of municipalities used consultants to assist with their year-end financial statements, and only seven municipalities achieved unqualified audits.
The director of the University of Western Cape Community Law Centre, Prof Nico Steytler, yesterday said that even though Samwu contested the legislation, it was still justifiable. “The ANC leadership was clear on it and this was a well thought out bill which will help in the provision of proper and impartial service delivery,” Prof Steytler said.
The Independent Democrats (ID) Parliamentary leader, Joe Mcgluwa, said Zuma may have failed to uphold his constitutional obligations by delaying signing the bill.
“The ID hopes the signing of the bill marks the first step in a concerted effort by the ANC to bring this disastrous policy of cadre deployment to an end,” Mcgluwa said.
He said the fact that the bill was signed so long after it was approved by Parliament on April 19 was cause for concern.
“Section 237 of the constitution clearly states that all ‘constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay’.
“The delay in the president’s signing of the bill means that its provisions will have had no effect on key municipal appointments made between April 19 and July 2.”
Credit to: Business Day