The Eastern Cape government has agreed to implement a financial recovery plan as part of an out-of-court settlement with the civil organisation Let’s Talk Komani which applied for the dissolution of the Enoch Mgijima municipal council last Friday.
The organisation applied for the Enoch Mgijima Local Municiplaity (EMLM) to be dissolved last year, indicating its failure to deliver services to its communities and minimal revenue collection efforts.
Let’s Talk Komani’s (LTK) claims stem from the local authority’s persistent failure to repair dilapidated roads, the ailing electricity infrastructure, failure to pay Eskom, the mismanagement of the waste collection site and the appointment of unqualified personnel in senior positions, among others.
The terms of the settlement between the two parties include the implementation of a financial recovery plan (FRP) that was established by the local authority’s former administrator, Dr Vuyo Mlokothi, who was forced out of his position by staff in protest action.
The co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) department is to make quarterly reports to the Grahamstown High Court regarding progress made in the implementation of the FRP.
LTK chairperson Ken Clark requested in an affidavit before court that any official opposing the application be held personally accountable for the legal costs, as they would be trying to “defend the indefensible.”
Clark said it should be noted that the premier, Oscar Mabuyane, had approached the leadership of the organisation through his attorneys to try to settle the matter.
“If the FRP is not implemented in three months we will be back in court and the judge will decide if they have performed or not. If they do not perform he may well dissolve the council and we go to an election or he may rule a different solution.
“The point is that this settlement is now a court order that has been accepted by the provincial government. If they do not perform they will be in contempt of court and that could have serious implications. For the first time the premier admitted there was a big problem and agreed with us that something urgent needed to be done to rectify the problem.”
Asked whether he thought the EMLM would fulfill the court order, Clark said, “You judge for yourself. As of the meeting in the council chambers on March 9, we were told a crack team would be sent to turn the municipality around…do you see any improvement? No money to fix electrical faults and other issues.”
EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa indicated that the settlement meant the local authority would be given more time to work towards turning things around.
“The municipality will be given a further three months to implement its FRP. The agreement reached was initially proposed by Cogta during consultation meetings with LTK, which stated that the municipality was going to be placed under administration. Therefore it would not be prudent to continue with the court application when pragmatic actions were being taken by a higher sphere of government. The proposal was rejected and the court case continued.”
Kowa said the municipality was adamant that the implementation of the FRP that was endorsed by council was progressing well and that there were more progressive actions being undertaken to improve governance and administration.