Tshwane won’t get new city manager anytime soon

ZAR President Paul Kruger's statue in Church Square in the Pretoria CBD, 29 March 2020. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The city’s administrator, Mpho Nawa, said they would ‘channel the money to service delivery instead of spending it on lawyers to defend our intention to fill a vacant position’.

The City of Tshwane will not be getting a permanent new City manager anytime soon – because of a decision not to spend money on lawyers to oppose court action by the DA.

This is confirmed in a lawyer’s letter.

The DA said it received the lawyer’s letter on Friday last week.

This was in response to its ongoing legal bid to block any appointment of a new City manager. The letter carries the subject: “Re: Democratic Alliance and 3 others vs The Premier and 16 others”.

The letter reads:

1. We refer to your client’s re-enrolled urgent application to stay the appointment of a City Manager, pending the Constitutional Court appeal in the dissolution dispute.

2. Our client has instructed us to inform you that it will not appoint a City Manager, until the Constitutional Court has determined the validity of the dissolution of the City Council.

3. The reasons for its decision are the following:

a. It has been advised that its plan to appoint a City Manager at the beginning of August 2020 on a fixed-term contract terminable on 3 months’ notice is allowed in law and would be practical in the circumstances.

b. But litigation over that question would be imprudent in the current crisis. The resources of the City are limited and diminishing. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the biggest contraction of our economy since the Great Depression. The pandemic has placed unprecedented demands on our diminishing resources to deliver services where there is an urgent need for service delivery in the areas of health and to the poor and vulnerable.

c. Consequently, it is not in the interest of the City or its residents to litigate over the appointment, until the Constitutional Court has determined the validity of the dissolution.

In response to the receipt of the letter, the DA wrote on twitter on Sunday: “Last month when Gauteng Cooperative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile tabled his budget vote in the provincial legislature, he announced that a City Manager would be appointed by 1 August this year.

“The sudden backtracking comes after the DA approached the North Gauteng High Court to interdict any attempt to appoint a City Manager, to prevent the ANC from imposing one of their cadres on Tshwane.”

DA mayoral candidate Randall Williams explained the origins of the matter, from the DA’s point of view: “It started at the beginning of June, when we heard rumours that the administrator intended to appoint a City manager for a period of five years.

“The administrator is appointed for 90 days only. Therefore, we feel they do not have the authority to appoint someone for five years. This would mean that when political parties return to the City, we would be forced to work with this appointment long after the administrators have left.

“We believe it is appropriate to make acting appointments only – for example, for a period of three months, at this point,” Williams explained.

He said the DA had in June written to the administrators and asked them “to confirm or deny” their intention to appoint a new City manager – but Williams said the party had not received a reply.

Williams said the DA had then warned it would bring court action to prevent any such appointment. In response, the party had received notice that such an appointment would only be made on 1 August.

As this date approached, the DA then served legal papers on the administrator, arguing why it continued to believe such an appointment would be inappropriate.

This was when it received the letter in reply, dated 10 July, advising the position would not be filled imminently.

Asked to comment on the decision, the administrator, Mpho Nawa, said on Sunday night: “We always avoid being dragged into a political street fight by Mr Randall Williams. He continues to criticise the work of the team of administrators in the City of Tshwane. We thought that it was imperative to explain the reasons why we decided to avoid litigation in the courts in the matter of the recruitment process for the vacant position of City manager.

“We felt that it was prudent to channel the money to service delivery instead of spending it on lawyers to defend our intention to fill a vacant position that has been advertised. The City of Tshwane has financial challenges and it would have been imprudent to spend the money of the residents of the capital city on unnecessary litigation. Furthermore, we didn’t want to be side-tracked from the momentous task of focusing on service delivery in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is therefore incorrect to characterise our position as a sudden backtracking. We will await the outcome of the Constitutional Court on the dissolution before deciding on the way forward,” Nawa concluded.

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