Limpopo ANC feuds see district, provincial leaders in court

The Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs in Limpopo (CoGHSTA) is set to oppose the application for a final interdict against the province’s intervention in Mopani District Municipality (MDM) which the department had placed under administration due to poor service delivery.

The district municipality scored an early victory in the ongoing standoff after successfully obtaining an interim order against the department. This is pending a hearing on the merits of the case, scheduled for July 19.

The department is expected to argue that the district municipality was poorly managed and had obtained financial audit disclaimers.

The audit outcomes pointed to poor governance, including the municipality’s failure to provide drinking water.

Hitekani Magwedze, spokesperson for the provincial government, said they will showcase why the interim order should not be made permanent.

“The Limpopo Department of CoGHSTA will challenge the decision by the Polokwane High Court before the return date of July 19. We were not afforded the opportunity to present our case. We are prepared to, and will follow all court processes to this end.”

In March, Mopani District Municipality Mayor Pule Shayi approached the high court seeking interim relief against the provincial government for placing it under mandatory intervention. The province triggered the intervention after the municipality received a disclaimer audit for the 2021/2022 financial year and was unable to provide clean, running water to its residents.

According to the province, the intervention was necessary due to the municipality’s failure to maintain complete and accurate records to support its financial statements since the previous year’s audit report.

This year, Lepelle Northern Water (LNW) imposed a 20% water supply restriction on BaPhalaborwa’s communities due to MDM’s outstanding water debt of R257-million. Last year, LNW also imposed water restrictions in the Phalaborwa and Greater Letaba municipal areas due to the district municipality’s financial mess.

Recently, Tzaneen, Nkowankowa, and neighboring areas have experienced water shortages, primarily due to infrastructure problems that fall under MDM’s jurisdiction. The municipality was also besieged with past findings related to unapproved, irregular, wasteful, and fruitless expenses dating back to 2009.

In a statement on March 31, the Mopani council reiterated its stance against the implementation of the mandatory Section 139 intervention.

Read the statement: “A special council sitting of Mopani District Municipality has today unanimously reaffirmed its position against the planned implementation of Section 139 by the provincial government of Limpopo, saying it will await the outcome of the case to be heard in the high court on July 18, 2023.

“Council has also reiterated its earlier position that the Limpopo Provincial Government is welcomed whenever it has time to support the municipality through Section 154 of the Constitution, which empowers national and provincial governments to support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities.”
Sunday World understands that the internal political feud in the governing ANC between Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha and Mayor Shayi was at the centre of the municipality being placed under Section 139 intervention. According to sources close to the duo, this was the reason the two were determined to battle it out at the Polokwane High Court in July.

Sunday World learnt that Shayi was leveraging the Section 139 enforcement, which mandates intervention in Mopani’s affairs, to launch an attack on Mathabatha amid their ongoing conflict. Mathabatha and Shayi were in opposing ANC factions during the provincial conference last June, when the former was re-elected as provincial chairperson for a third term.

Those with knowledge of their epic tiff said that Shayi had been part of an offensive that sought to block Mathabatha from emerging. Shayi had also been removed as the chair of the South African Local Government Association (Salga) in the province before the conference as it was believed he would use the structure to mount a campaign to challenge Mathabatha directly.
He had failed to get enough nominations as the eventual contest for the governing party’s top job in the province was between Mthabatha and Dickson Masemola. But the war between Mathabatha and Shayi did not stop then, because the provincial government this year unleashed the section 139, which grants the provincial executive the power to intervene in a municipality it views as too dysfunctional to fulfill its constitutional or legislative obligations.

DA councillor Mahlatswa Lebbeus Ramalepe said the impasse between the two heads is likely to result in a protracted legal battle. This will result in large legal costs for Mopani residents. He said the DA believes the intervention is necessary in the wake of yet another “embarrassing” disclaimer audit opinion for the 2021/2022 financial year.

“We [the DA in Mopani] believe the intervention is necessary for the wake (sic) of yet another embarrassing disclaimer audit opinion for the 2021/2022 financial year,” said Ramalepe. Ramalepe has urged Mopani District Municipality to refrain from entering into  prolonged legal battles and focus on implementing the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) action plan to track progress on the 2021/2022 findings.

Ramalepe assured that the DA would monitor the situation to ensure residents have access to municipal services despite the ongoing conflict.

“The municipality’s finances are plagued by large amounts of unauthorised, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure, unfinished Regional Bulk and Water Services Infrastructure Grant projects, the bulk of which date back as far as 2009. This is compounded by R200-million in water debt owed by municipalities, departments, and other entities.

“We call on Mopani District Municipality to avoid protracted legal battles. The municipality must focus on implementing the AGSA action plan to track progress on the 2021/2022 findings and implement the internal audit action plan for 2022/2023 to ensure that residents receive the much-needed services of uninterrupted water delivery,” he said.

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