The State of governance and political parties

The State of governance and political parties

In 1995, the Transitional Local Councils structure came into being as a foundational phase for the establishment of the third tier of government. In the Maruleng council as in other local councils across the country governance remained a respected terrain given the overwhelming support that the largest party, the African National Congress enjoyed from the electorate. It is during this time that the institution functioned properly. Mrs. Liz de Beer was the Head of Administration and served in this capacity for a very long time. The proper functioning of the institution was mainly as a result of the collective approach prevailing at the time amongst councilors from the governing party, the ANC.

Fast forward issues of governance started to take a shape of conflation of the party with the state as the spoils were beginning to contaminate the trusted approach of the ANC councilors. In the midst of all the internal ructions engulfing the ANC, even the administrators started developing their own style of management in the absence of a consistent oversight function. The inaugural municipal councils ushered in 2000 found the sands already shifting under the feet of the politicians. Slowly, the decorum with which this governance structure was considered blew like a bubble in the face of the electorate.

When the governing ANC replaced Mr. Mafogo Junior as a Mayor all hell broke loose as his replacement Mr. Mafologela Pule found the situation already reflecting an aircraft that has lost its navigation point. He had to some extent followed the dictates of his party in terms of decision making which if it was derived from the party manifesto was the correct thing to do. Unfortunately, it was emanating from the party’s regional offices and as the conflation continued unabated he had no option but to toe the line. In his attempt to resort to the interpretation of the statutory approach he found himself at the centre of a storm. As a result he was summarily removed through a motion of no confidence initiated by his own party. He was later reinstated but by then the damage was already palpable. From then henceforth the battle lines were drawn and the Municipal Manager, Mr. Ramothwala Refiloe at the time had assumed both political and management roles.

Before the expiry of the term of the 2012 council Mr. Ramothwala was suspended as a Municipal Manager. No explanation was advanced to the public as to the reasons as the matter was treated like a private concern. It was however found by the legal firm that he has caused the municipality a lot of money through irregular appointment of contractors and inflating costs in cahoots with some of his colleagues apparently the fingered three employees. This approach laid bare the inconsistencies of the council given that the legal firm that investigated him fingered three employees of the municipality in wrong doing but they were never held accountable. As a result the political authority lost an opportunity to set the record straight in as far as the fight against corruption is concerned. Ultimately the municipality became an instrument of self-enrichment, lawlessness and disrespect for governance.

After the 2016 local government elections the newly inaugurated council continued with business as usual. Firstly, it paid Mr. Ramothwala R1 080 828 04 in an out of court settlement and no attempt was effected to follow up on the three employees that were fingered for wrong doing by the legal firm. The departure of Mr. Ramothwala created a platform for an acting capacity which was duly entrusted to Ms. Sithole SV who acted beyond the legal prescripts.
In order to plug this legal vacuum the department of coghsta seconded Mr. Lethole as Acting Municipal Manager. He only served for a few months and was unceremoniously recalled by the department.

The department then seconded Mr. Chaamano who got things so tight that he was recalled within a short period. The drama was now unfolding at a higher gear and to top up the performance Mr. Lethole S.J was brought back and appointed Municipal Manager. Within a few months of resuming his responsibilities complaints started coming out against him from one faction of the ANC and opposition councilors. In the first quarter of 2018 things got worse for him when the opposition formally called for his suspension. Council duly ratified the motion to suspend him and he was served with a letter to that effect. The main charges against him were that he has adjusted his salary without council approval, secondly that he is deliberately not implementing council resolutions, that he has procured a waste removal contract without council approval and lastly that he irregularly appointed traffic leanerships. Mr. Lethole has lodged a case with the CCMA against the municipality citing constructive dismissal.

What of the political parties?

The governing ANC is virtually handicapped to normalize the situation. The internal challenges facing the party along factional lines make it very difficult for it to exercise oversight and provide political direction. The independent councilor is obviously overshadowed by his station of legitimacy. The Democratic Alliance is somewhat absent in whatever an attempt geared to reverse the downward spiral. The Economic Freedom Fighters seems to have deferred its position of an official opposition. The Civic Warriors of Maruleng is the only party that acts like a real official opposition party.

In the midst of all these service delivery is taking a very hard knock. The reasons that precipitated Mr. Lethole’s departure are still to be implemented. The waste removal contract is still in place despite council resolution that it should be discontinued with immediate effect. The traffic learnerships are still hanging in the balance and no explanation is given as to how they were dealt with. The lack of implementation of council resolutions continues unhindered and projects such as the Maruleng Indoor Sports Centre remain unfinished. It is therefore very strange that things that caused Mr. Lethole his job are continuing as usual. In the end it is clear that the municipality is skidding on thin ice.

Goldrick Mafologela
015 0040 430
Politics & Governance

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