South Africa: Grahamstown Court Hears Application for Municipality to Be Placed Under Administration

13 September 2019

On Thursday the High Court in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) heard an application by the Unemployed People's Movement (UPM) to dissolve the Makana Municipal Council for violating its constitutional mandate by failing to provide basic services to the community.

The UPM is calling for the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to intervene and appoint an administrator, under section 139 (1) of the Constitution.

Ayanda Kota, leader of the UPM, told GroundUp that the people of Makhanda have had enough of "having their rights violated by living in sewage and drinking contaminated water".

In court, the municipality's lawyer argued that the separation of powers between government and courts meant that it was for the provincial government, not the courts to decide to place the municipality under administration; and that it did not fall under the court's jurisdiction. The municipality also argued that it is faced with a shortage of finances rather than administrative problems.

Kota disagreed. "They are raising the issue of jurisdiction ... It is just not possible that people must suffer because the province is refusing to intervene," he said outside court.

About 170 protestors picketed outside the court in support of the muncipality's dissolution. Ongeziwe Meltafa, a protester, said residents were tired of being promised change. "Enough is enough. We are sick of being unemployed and living in garbage."

The UPM, together with other civil society organisations, filed its court application in February, calling for the dissolution of the local council. The organisations argue that the council has violated sections 151 and 152 of the Constitution, by failing to "ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner".

The application accused Makana Municipality of corruption, failure to provide water and sewerage services, and serious neglect of municipal infrastructure, leaving roads filled with potholes and garbage.

Judge Igna Stretch reserved judgment.

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