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Political Interference in municipal affairs is unlawful!

Undue political interference in the municipal administration is a reality in many municipalities across the country. Reports of the Auditor General of South Africa provide direct substantive proof of this culture which prevails in a number of municipalities, including Mafube. These reports indicate a general trend of councillors being involved, directly or indirectly, in procurement processes, approving irregular appointments in top management structures, and formulating networks within municipal administrations to facilitate illicit cashflows, among other ills. Undue political interference poses a major risk to professionalism in municipal administrations and makes them vulnerable to capture by political elites. In this way, service delivery is no doubt compromised as resources are wasted and used for unauthorised and unintended purposes.

Councillors are, in general, prohibited from interfering with the administration at municipalities. Item 12 of the Code of Conduct for Councillors in the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, provides strict circumstances in which councillors may lawfully interfere in the management or administration of the municipality. A councillor may not interfere, except as provided by law i.e. in the manner envisaged by the legal provision and for the legitimate purpose that the exercise of such provision is meant to achieve. 

Item 12 of the Code further suggests that councillors can interfere when they act upon a mandate by the council and give instructions to municipal employees if authorised to do so by the council. Beyond these limited circumstances, interference by councillors in the administration is unlawful and amounts to undue political interference. An attempt by the Amendment Act 3 of 2022 to limit senior management members' political activities failed after this law was opposed by the trade union SAMWU and a ruling by the Labor Court declared it unconstitutional.

It can be deduced that political interference in the municipal administration by local politicians who are not councillors is automatically unauthorised and constitutes undue political interference. The above exception applies exclusively to councillors in the municipal council.  An inference can, thus, be drawn that the conduct of a municipal employee which is aimed at influencing decision-making in top management structures for the improper purpose of advancing political objectives in the municipal administration is unauthorised, unlawful and constitutes undue political interference. Such conduct ought to amount to gross misconduct for which a sanction of dismissal should be considered in appropriate circumstances. 

MBF invite residents, business owners and ratepayers to visit our offices at 18A Kerk Street, Frankfort on Mondays to Thursdays from 08h30 to 16h00 and Fridays 08h30 to 12h00. Call or send a WhatsApp message to Marina at 079 145 4295. Visit our website and follow us on Facebook.

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