29 June 2014

South Africa: Fear and Loathing in Wolmaransstad - the Catastrophe of a Collapsed Municipality


The following story is so outrageous that it could only be true. It's about the mismanagement of a small town in the North West and how political patronage and factional loyalty trumps competent governance and common sense. The most outrageous thing about this tale, is that Wolmaransstad is not unique: it is not even unusual. This scenario, with variations in detail, is duplicated in almost every small to medium town across South Africa.

Wolmaransstad has a municipal manager by the name of Ronnie Jonas. He is a man who enjoys, according to several sources, mutually-beneficial relationships with some highly-placed ANC provincial officials.

By August last year, this town's administration was found to be in such chaos and disarray that it was not able to fulfil one of its most basic functions: providing water to its citizens. The provincial government exercised its powers under the Constitution [most notably Section 139 1(b)], and placed the municipality under administration.

What this meant, according to administrator attorney Iqbal Motala, is that while the council could still do its legislative work (i.e pass budgets and make by-laws), its executive function (i.e the provision of basic services, payment of bills and other boring...

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