The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled in the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) favour by confirming a Gauteng High Court ruling that a decision to dissolve the Tshwane municipality was unlawful.
The SCA dismissed the Gauteng government’s challenge against the high court judgment.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura put the municipality under administration in March, following attempts by Cogta MEC Lebogang Maile to intervene.
However, the DA went to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to challenge the decision, arguing that Makhura and his executive committee had dissolved the council for political reasons.
In April, the High Court overturned, with costs, the Gauteng government’s decision to dissolve municipality and put it under administration. In the judgment, penned by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, the court said: “The decision of the Gauteng executive council to dissolve the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, taken on March 4 and communicated to the applicants on March 10, is reviewed, declared invalid and set aside.”
“Interference from one sphere of government into another sphere, as we have here, is seen as most intrusive and can only be resorted to in exceptional circumstances,” it stated further.
But the Gauteng government took the matter to the SCA.
In its ruling delivered Tuesday, the SCA said the High Court rightly held that the circumstances of the case were exceptional and that the DA had made out a proper case.
The SCA added: “The running of the City of Tshwane by an unelected administrator is the very antithesis of democratic and accountable government for local communities, enshrined in S 152(1)(a) of the Constitution. The court’s order properly ensures that the councillors, duly elected by the citizens of Tshwane in 2016, are allowed to resume their rightful constitutional role, powers and responsibilities. The order gives effect to the rights of voters and preserves the autonomy of local government. It cannot be faulted.”
The SCA also said the high court held that the citizens of Tshwane had a fundamental constitutional right to be governed by those they had elected and the fact that they were denied this right, constituted irreparable harm.
“I cannot find fault with the high court’s reasoning.”
The municipality had been run by the DA since 2016 after striking a deal with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and forming a coalition with smaller parties.
However, the second DA mayor, Stevens Mokgalapa, stepped down in the midst of a scandal, similar to his predecessor, Solly Msimanga, who resigned ahead of the 2019 national elections, News24 previously reported. The council also failed to pass its adjustment budget, which had to be done at the beginning of March.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the DA welcomed the “long-awaited” ruling, which it said would “reinstate the DA in the City of Tshwane and oust the unlawful African National Congress (ANC) administrators”.
DA provincial chairperson Mike Moriarty said: “It was obvious from the court judgment that the ANC’s attempt to put the City of Tshwane under administration eight months ago was a politically motivated power grab on the part of Gauteng Cooperative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile.”
“There was no justification in removing the elected DA councillors from their posts,” the party said.