DA alleges governance and oversight collapse in Johannesburg council

20 September 2023 - 18:44
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The Johannesburg city council chamber. The DA says the ANC executive and the speaker are always late for council meetings.
The Johannesburg city council chamber. The DA says the ANC executive and the speaker are always late for council meetings.
Image: Supplied

The DA in Johannesburg claims there are gross governance failures and a collapse of oversight functions in the city council.

In an open letter to Gauteng co-operative governance MEC Mzi Khumalo, DA caucus whip Leah Knott pleaded for the speaker's intervention, saying that all attempts to engage other parties on the matter had failed.

“Over the past few months, we have raised several serious concerns with the speaker’s office that have all gone unacknowledged and unanswered, which we deem unacceptable and [to be] a breakdown of governance and oversight in the City of Johannesburg,” said the letter.

Knott said the rapid deterioration of the oversight function was a huge concern to the party as it was “unable to execute its mandate”.

The DA hit out at speaker Colleen Makhubele for “failing to perform her duties”, which included ensuring that council meetings are conducted in accordance with the rules and orders of council, and ensuring the effectiveness of the municipal council committees.

“We do not believe that the speaker is discharging her duties in line with either legislation nor the standing rules and orders of council and thus request intervention in terms of correcting processes within this arm of the Johannesburg council so that, as councillors, we can discharge our duties accordingly.”

Comment from Khumalo's office and that of Makhubele had not been obtained at the time of publication and will be added to this story once received.

Knott said her party had outlined Makhubele's failures, which included unanswered correspondence, late notification of speaking times for debates, lapses in security protocols in the council chamber, unprofessional conduct of legislature staff, cancellations of council meetings with no reasons provided, and council questions being deferred and delayed with no reasons provided.

“There is also a constant cancellation of scheduled meetings which council has approved as per the annual calendar, and scheduling of extraordinary meetings which is causing chaos and, in a majority of instances, irregular expenditure due to unavailability.”

The DA accused the legislature of persistent failure of section 79 oversight committees to perform their duties and mandated functions.

“As per the third and fourth quarter reports (January-March 2023 and April-June 2023) for the S79 oversight committee of the legislature, several committees have failed to sit for consecutive scheduled meetings, which has a direct knock-on effect in terms of council meetings based on reports not having been considered.”

The DA whip alleged that many committee dates had to be moved as reports were not submitted by the speaker, the administration or the executive, leaving nothing for the committees to consider.

“A lot of the cancellations of these meetings are happening at the last minute so the city has been paying for meetings that are not sitting, as catering cannot be cancelled in time. This failure to account is unacceptable and lacks the transparency required from this office.”

The party criticised the executive and the speaker's tardiness, accusing them of persistent lateness and “disrespect for time”.

“Our standing rules and orders provide that all councillors are to be seated 10 minutes prior to the starting time of council. It is unacceptable that neither the speaker nor the executive are ever seated in council on time and neither has the speaker taken up this contravention of our rules with the mayor and his executive.”

The opposition party said it was unacceptable that Makhubele and her office had not only failed to ensure that council questions are answered timeously — but has criticised them for making unilateral decisions on their inclusion in the council agenda.

“She has also failed on several occasions to ensure that these questions are addressed by the executive and thus has failed to hold them accountable and to protect the interests of all political parties and councillors in the council.”

Knott said the council could not operate in an environment that stifles oversight and obstructs transparency and accountability.

“We hereby request urgent intervention in ensuring that the legislature operates efficiently and effectively ... and protects the rights of residents, political parties and councillors.”

Knott pleaded for voices not to be stifled and for the council not to be “turned into an empty vessel which fails to serve the people of Johannesburg”.


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