Cogta MEC ordered to pay costs in case over postponement of six by-elections

MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi will now have to decide the fate of these councillors. Picture: Supplied

MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi will now have to decide the fate of these councillors. Picture: Supplied

Published May 6, 2024


Durban — KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi has been heavily criticised for postponing several by-elections until after the May 29 general elections. In addition, she has been ordered by the Pietermaritzburg High Court to pay the legal costs.

The court ruled this week that Sithole-Moloi erred in failing to authorise the by-elections within 90 days after six wards had declared their councillors’ positions vacant.

The wards were in the Umvoti, Nongoma, Umzumbe, Mthonjaneni, uPongolo and Newcastle municipalities.

The court ordered the MEC to hold the by-elections on June 19 “notwithstanding that such date is more than 90 days from the dates of the vacancies that have given rise for the need for such by-elections as provided in section 25(3) (d) of the Structures Act.”

The court also ordered the MEC to pay the legal costs for her application, and pay for the counter-application brought by the Mthonjaneni Local Municipality, the only municipality that filed papers opposing postponement.

According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) provincial spokesperson, Thabani Ngwira, the by-elections in Newcastle, uPhongolo and Mthonjaneni were initially scheduled for May 15.

According to Ngwira, Sithole-Moloi had previously indicated that she would approach the court seeking the postponement of the by-elections.

Ngwira said the IEC did not oppose the postponement, neither did it have a problem with handling the by-elections while dealing with the general elections’ processes.

IFP provincial chairperson Thami Ntuli, said Sithole-Moloi, who is also the ANC Women’s League provincial chairperson, might have tried to avoid a situation where the IFP would defeat the ANC in by-elections before the general elections, which would have been an embarrassment.

“We saw the growth of the IFP as the reason why the MEC panicked as she might have realised that the IFP was going to win those wards.

“As we are going to general elections, she might have realised that this was going to embarrass the ANC and expose its weakness at the local level.

“This was the political decision, which had nothing to do with preventing the disruption of the (preparations) for the national and provincial elections,” said Ntuli.

ANC provincial spokesperson Mafika Mndebele said in the lower South Coast’s Umzumbe Municipality, the ANC was stronger than the IFP.

“He (Ntuli) does not understand the balance of forces as there (in Umzumbe) they are going to lose dismally, and he himself knows very well that they have never won that particular area.

“When the government takes decisions it’s because they would have considered their own factors as the ANC does not micromanage government. We set broader parameters upon which the government must perform and allow the government to manage the day-to-day,” said Mndebele.

DA’s Cogta spokesperson Martin Meyer said the postponement had left the affected wards with a political leadership vacuum, “creating an untenable situation for residents who have nowhere to turn”.

“This as most of KZN’s people are already suffering poor service delivery. That residents in these five communities are being denied the opportunity to elect a new political leadership smacks of the arrogance we have come to expect from MEC Sithole-Moloi and her Taliban faction ANC government,” said Meyer.

Cogta spokesperson Siboniso Mngadi said the MEC welcomed the judgment and would abide by it.

Sunday Tribune