FRANCISTOWN: Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi on Wednesday started the process of dissolving Sowa Township Authority civic leaders as a corrective measure.
Sowa Township Authority consists of eight nominated councillors by the minister, whose portfolio includes supervision of councils. There is also one elected councillor for Tshwaane/Malelejwe who also seats at the main Central District Council (CDC). The dissolution matter has diametrically shaken the political wing of the council although some affected civic leaders have preferred to give the matter a wait-and-see attitude.
Addressing a Kgotla meeting in Sowa Township on Wednesday morning, Venson-Moitoi announced that in line with powers vested upon her, she was destined to dissolve the Sowa Township Authority in terms of the Local Government Act of 2012 section 89.
The matter of dissolving a council is a process, which entails addressing the affected locality and gazetting the matter into a Government Gazette, appointing a board of inquiry and dealing with the results thereof.
Further explaining, the deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Colonel Duke Masilo said dissolving a local authority is a process and not an event.
He denied that the Minister has dissolved the local authority, but instead indicated that the process of dissolution has just started as entailed in the Local Government Act of 2012.
“The Act describes the process that the Minister follows in dissolving the council authority. It all started with her consulting the township residents, followed by gazetting the notification or consultation with the people and followed by constituting a board of inquiry and a report forwarded to the Minister for determination,” said Masilo who is also an attorney by training.
He emphasised that dissolving a local authority can only be arrived at after following a due process as detailed by the relevant Act.
Masilo’s explanations followed circulating rumours that Venson-Moitoi has Wednesday morning actually dissolved the council, which is predominantly run by nominated councillors whose ratio to elected ones stands at eight to one.
“This whole thing according to the law is a process and not simply an event. Legally, the affected councillors are still engaged until such a time that they will be officially disengaged,” explained Masilo.
He stressed that if council meetings were still running they would still be attending such meetings. “It’s only that the consultation process came at a time when the council meetings are still far ahead. There is no dissolution yet, but the process to dissolve the council has just started.”
Venson-Moitoi’s consultation process follows a meeting held by Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kgotla Autlwetse who came to calm the waters without much success.
His plea with
It has not been possible for the Sowa Township Authority to convene, as councillors have not been forthcoming for various reasons.
On a separate matter, the councillors have also taken their council to court over the mileage payment dispute in which the civic leaders are insistent that they are eligible to mileage payment whilst the council is not ready to pay.
The councillors who will be affected by the dissolution include the township mayor, George Maphane, deputy mayor Otsile Mashona and councillors Botho Ntirang, Damien Thapa, Pearl Lekau, Olifant Mfa, Vuyo Yane and Sekobaneng Mosweu.
If dissolution finally happens, the entire nominated councilors could lose their privileges as new ones could be elected or those who were found to be ringleaders could be selectively axed.
Narrating the development at the Sowa Township Authority, one of the affected councillors, Botho Ntirang who had attended the Minister’s meeting acknowledged that Venson-Moitoi announced the process of dissolving the council.
There was no definite period announced when the council will be duly dissolved.
“As councillors we differed with her. Apparently, there is a court matter that has set the councillors and the technocrats apart. Look, when we attend council meetings for five days, we are paid mileage only for one day whilst we travel there for the entire five days,” explained worried Ntirang.
The main issue that the council wanted done was for the councillors to sign powers of attorney on two issues and they (civic leaders) were opposed to it. The Minister wanted the councillors to provide the powers of attorney so that there could be progress.
“The Minister is of the view that we took oath of office. Yes, we did so to defend the best interest of the council and not just to sign willy-nilly. On the other hand, the Minister is aware that the Local Government Act of 2012 empowers us to recuse ourselves in matters that we have vested interest in. That’s where we are now.”
Ntirang is worried that when they duly exercised their rights as politicians, they are misconstrued to be acting in defiance of the Minister’s instructions.
At best, the councillors could watch as the Minister’s processes unfold and they will only take it from there.