Municipalities in the Eastern Cape racked up an astounding R130 million in legal fees during the 2011/12 financial year. This amount was more than double the costs of R60,45 million recorded in 2010/11.

Until there are real consequences for poor performance by municipal officials, the citizens of the Eastern Cape can forget about decent service delivery.

I will be asking the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, to answer in the House during oral question time in the Provincial Legislature on 19 June 2013 what action has been taken against employees in municipalities who through negligence caused litigation and how this can be prevented in the future.

A response to a question I posed to the MEC revealed that:

  • As at 31 October 2012 73 matters had been recorded at the Mthatha High court.
  •  Of the 24 municipalities that reported their legal fee costs, King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality recorded the highest legal costs of R 9,86 million. (These costs were attributed to defend a matter where the municipality was being sued by parents of children who were burnt from a negligently exposed electricity cable.)
  • The beleaguered Kouga Municipality ran up legal fees to the tune of R4, 2 million. (These fees were incurred by the municipality defending the actions of wrongfully suspended official Fred Dennis which cost them R1, 5 million and recently the wrongful suspensions of two other officials.)
  • No statistics could be obtained for cases involving municipalities from the other High Courts namely Bhisho, Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth. For the reply, click here:                     Reply to question 51 of 2013

According to the MEC his department has intervened by placing legal advisors in 22 municipalities. However, this is not working and is causing double legal costs because these advisors have to appoint professional practitioners to handle these cases.

Furthermore, during a meeting of the Eastern Cape Local Government Legal Advisor’s Forum, provincial Auditor General Singa Ngqwala pointed out a 98% lack of consequences of poor performance and transgression in municipalities.

The exorbitant legal costs incurred by municipalities, caused by negligence and incompetence, mean less money for service delivery.

I will next week be asking for a full disclosure of details of every legal matter against municipalities during the budget meeting of the department and how we can resolve these matters quickly with minimal further cost.

It is clear that the anger in communities over the lack of accountability in their municipalities by the ruling party can only be addressed if they, as voters, take the first step by making their voices heard by voting DA in 2014.