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Staff Reporter

A Free State municipality will be ordered to reinstate the executive mayor it booted out more than a month ago or else the council will be dissolved, The Free Stater can exclusively reveal.

Setsoto Local Municipality – which runs the towns of Ficksburg, Senekal, Clocolan and Marquard – has been without a mayor since the incumbent, Komane Koalane, was controversially removed from the post through a vote of no confidence on April 14.

The municipality, infamous for water shortages and poor service delivery, has also been running without its head of administration after municipal manager Tshepiso Ramakarane was reportedly suspended on gross misconduct charges in November last year.

Infighting has seen the council failing to meet to resolve the leadership crisis and to approve its draft 2021/22 budget and draft Integrated Development Plan (IDP).

This has prompted Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) MEC Thembeni Nxangisa – whose portfolio includes local government – to intervene in an effort to bring normalcy back at Setsoto.

Responding this Tuesday to questions from The Free Stater, COGTA spokesperson Zolile Lobe said the council will be ordered to convene an urgent meeting to reinstate both Koalane and Ramakarane to their respective positions as executive mayor and municipal manager.

He said the vote of no confidence against the mayor was invalid as it had not been done in accordance with the municipality’s standing rules and orders, while the municipal manager had successfully challenged his suspension in court.

“The MEC has written a letter to the speaker of the municipality directing that the municipality needs to respect the decision of the court in the matter between the municipality and the municipal manager, Mr Ramakarane, where the court decided that the decision to suspend the latter is illegal and he must be reinstated with immediate effect,” Lobe said.

“The MEC also directs the council that the decision to pass a motion of no confidence against the mayor of the municipality is null and void, as it was not done with adherence to the standing rules and orders of the municipality.

“The MEC therefore advises the municipality to reinstate the mayor.”

Lobe said the situation at Setsoto was “really worrying to COGTA”.

“Because of the infighting in the council, the municipality has not held a meeting to adopt their IDP and the budget, which places the municipality in a precarious situation,” the spokesperson said.

“The MEC therefore directs the speaker that the municipality must convene a special council seating to correct the status of the municipality.”

The Free Stater’s several attempts to get a comment on the issues from Setsoto speaker Krog Mokuoane had not materialised by the time of publishing as he neither picked his calls nor responded to the questions texted and emailed to him.  

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party says while the council continued to dillydally on the issue of the mayor and municipal manager, Setsoto communities – including the town of Ficksburg which grabbed international headlines when activist Andries Tatane was shot dead by the police during service delivery protests 10 years ago – are having to bear the brunt of the leadership vacuum at the municipality.

“Yes, everyone can come to the conclusion (that the municipality is on auto-pilot) and that observation will be correct since there is no executive mayor to perform the oversight role and responsibilities and municipal manager to deal with management and administrative duties,” DA councillor Moses Mokhele bemoaned in an earlier interview with The Free Stater.

“There is no Mayco (mayoral committee) and Section 80 committees are not sitting to perform oversight and accountability duties.

“The council must sit to approve the budget and revise the IDP in a council meeting but such will not happen if the speaker is failing to convene council meetings.

“We have called many times for the speaker to convene an urgent special council to deal with the election of the executive mayor and to deal with other critical issues of vacant and strategic positions and matters of compliance like your budget and IDP 2020/2021.”

While farmers and taxi drivers joined forces in March to protest against the deteriorating road conditions, sporadic water supplies, spilling sewage and uncollected garbage have become common sights in the municipal area.

“Service delivery is deteriorating at a high rate and one can say it has never been the priority since the term of this council started,” Mokhele lamented.

“Roads in all our towns are in bad conditions . . . water supply is a serious challenge,” the councillor added.

“Communities are without water for weeks and when the water is supplied it is for few hours and that water will be very dirty and undrinkable . . . (toilet) buckets are not removed for months and it is a serious health hazard.”

Lobe acknowledged the MEC had received a letter from the DA requesting him to intervene.

“You will realise that as a department, we are bound by Chapter 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which talks of cooperative governance, to ensure smooth relations amongst all spheres of government,” the COGTA spokesperson said.

“We are further directed by Section 154 of the Constitution to assist the municipalities in the performance of their duties, where necessary.

“The current state in the municipality has the potential of compromising service delivery to the community and thus leading to the municipality’s failure in meeting their mandate as defined by Chapter 7 of the Constitution, under the heading ‘Objects of Local Government’.”

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