Depoliticization of municipalities: Ramaphosa signs law banning municipal managers from holding political office

President Cyril Ramaphosa.

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill.
  • The bill prohibits municipal executives and senior executives from holding political office.
  • Legislation prevents senior municipal officials from holding political office in a party, whether on a permanent, temporary or interim basis.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, which bars municipal managers and senior executives from holding political office.

According to parliamentary announcements, filings, and committee reports (ATCs), Ramaphosa signed the bill on August 16, 2022. The National Assembly passed the bill in December 2020.

It prevents municipal administrators and senior managers directly responsible to municipal administrators from holding political office, whether they have been appointed on a permanent, temporary or interim basis.

Section 71B also prohibits staff members from holding political office.

“A staff member may not exercise political office in a political party, whether on a permanent, temporary or interim basis. A person who has been appointed as a staff member before [the legislation] takes effect, must respect [it] in the year following the start of [the legislation],” it reads.

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It defines political office as a position of president, vice president, secretary, deputy secretary or treasurer of a political party at the national level or in any province, region or other area in which the party operates.

The Amendment Act 2011, which this Bill will replace, provided for a similar ban on political office, but it only applied to municipal managers and their direct reports.

The legislation also provides for the repeal of the Municipal Systems Amendment Act 2011, which was declared unconstitutional in 2017, for failure to follow procedures set out in Section 76 of the Constitution. The law was labeled as Section 75, instead of a Section 76, bill.

In her audit of municipal figures for the financial year 2020/21, Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke reported that R21.10 billion of irregular expenditure was incurred at local government level, mainly due to non-compliance with legislation on the supply chain.

Maluleke also reported that only 62 municipalities had made credible statements to his office at the start of the audit season.

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A whopping R10.4 billion was paid to municipal finance units in salaries, but only 25% of the country’s 257 municipalities were able to produce credible financial statements for his team.

Municipalities have also spent R1.26 billion to hire financial consultants to help them compile their financial statements.

Earlier this month, News24 reported that councilors in municipal wards across the country were not skilled enough to handle council business, and some even struggled to write reports and give presentations.

These are some of the findings of a development strategy for councillors, which has been led by the Local Government Sector Education and Training Authority.

With respect to municipal financial management, critical skills gaps were identified in, among others, financial governance, municipal financial management and reporting, and municipal procurement.

The development strategy highlighted skill shortages in interpersonal and presentation skills, as well as report writing.

Melissa C. Keyes