WC Statement on Bitou Municipality legal matter
Bitou Municipality appeal to be heard in 2020
The ongoing legal matter pertaining to the Bitou Municipality and the irregular decision to appoint Mr Lonwabo Ngoqo as the Municipal Manager (MM) despite him having been found guilty of financial misconduct, continues and will be heard in 2020.
The matter relates to a judgment handed down by the Labour Court of South Africa in August this year in a case brought against the Bitou Municipality, its Speaker, its mayor and the MM. The Municipal Council in February took a decision to appoint Mr Ngoqo despite the fact that he had been dismissed from the very same Municipality in 2012 after disciplinary proceedings found him guilty of financial misconduct.
The Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell took the matter to court after exhausting all other options, and challenged the legality of the actions taken by the Municipal Council which was intended to circumvent the law.
“We never want to go to court against another sphere of government but sadly there are times when we have no other option left. In the Western Cape, the rule of law and our continued commitment to good governance and improved service delivery requires of us to be intolerant of unlawful decisions that place the ability of a Municipality to do its job, at risk. So we took the matter to court and we are very happy about the outcome.”
The court found that the decision taken by the Bitou Council was indeed unlawful and ordered that the settlement agreement entered into between the Municipality and Mr Ngoqo be set aside, and that Mr Ngoqo’s appointment as Municipal Manager also be set aside.
“A cost order was also made against the council.”
The respondents then appealed the judgment. That appeal will be heard next year. In the interim, the provincial government approached the court and asked that the MM be removed from his position until the legal matter has been concluded. In a technical judgment delivered on 26 November 2019, the court found against the provincial department and the minister and dismissed the application, deciding that Mr Ngoqo may remain in office until the appeal process has been concluded.
“We will abide by the court decision and will await the appeal hearing whereafter we hope the matter will reach a final conclusion. I want to urge our municipalities to remember who they are representing. These are communities who are putting their trust in their leaders and rely on their leaders to place community interests first. This does not seem to be the case in Bitou,” Bredell said.
Spokesperson for the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell
Mobile: 084 583 1670
Telephone: 021 483 2820