INSIDE METRO’s Chief Reporter LUCAS LEDWABA speaks to Tshwane’s DA mayoral candidate Randall Williams about his future plans for the city and his ongoing legal tussle with Lebogang Maile, arguably the most powerful politician in Gauteng and MEC for Human Settlements, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
INSIDE METRO: You were expecting the Tshwane council to sit on Saturday 09 May. The council didn’t sit as planned after the EFF and ANC expressed they would not be a part of the meeting. What do you read into this move by your coalition partners?
WILLIAMS: To begin with, I must correct the premise of this question as it is incorrect. The reason that the Council meeting did not sit is because on Friday 8 May an appeal had been lodged to challenge the decision by the North Gauteng High Court. The filing of this decision meant the court decision was stayed and thus the Tshwane Council would remain dissolved until the appeal hearing is concluded. This is why the meeting on 9 May could not continue.
Further to that, the DA is only in formal coalition agreements with Cope, the VF and the ACDC. All three of whom are fully behind getting council reinstated so that we can carry on the business of service delivery.
Both the ANC provincial government and the EFF lodged appeals. This is likely because both parties were the target of a scathing judgment by the North Gauteng High Court on the behavior of their councilors.
INSIDE METRO: What’s the DA’s next move with regards to the prevailing situation in the Tshwane Metro? You have said you will be approaching the courts this week to have the judgment implemented pending the appeal by the Gauteng provincial government and the EFF. How far are you with this process and why is it necessary?
WILLIAMS: The DA has bought a Section 18(3) application to the court in order to try and force the implementation of the judgment while the appeal proceedings unfold. These court papers have been filed and we are hoping to hear back from the courts in the coming weeks. The reason for this is because the appeals that have been filed have no basis and they are merely buying time. This is a critical time in the city, with the COVID-19 crisis there is a need for leadership to guide the city in various aspects such as the budgetary preparation and the appointment of a city manager. These are processes that should be conducted by duly elected politicians who were chosen by the residents of the city, not administrators that were imposed unlawfully by the provincial government.
INSIDE METRO: The EFF has said they will also be applying for leave to appeal the North Gauteng High Court’s decision against the dissolution of the council. Has the DA received formal correspondence with regards to this and what is your position on the EFF’s move?
WILLIAMS: The DA has received the legal papers by the EFF and we will be filing to counter them. The decision by the EFF is interesting because based on my engagements with their Tshwane caucus it was not a decision that they were consulted on. However, considering that the North Gauteng High Court offered a scathing judgment on the conduct of EFF councilors, directly saying that they placed party loyalty above that of the needs of residents, it is likely that the EFF wants to challenge this ruling.
INSIDE METRO: This battle between the DA, ANC and EFF has been going on for months now. How has this impacted on service delivery?
WILLIAMS: Council is the highest decision making structure in Tshwane. It has core legislated responsibilities which facilitate crucial aspects of city business. Among them are matters such as approving budgets, appointing top level managers, passing policies and by-laws and conducting oversight on the city’s performance. With the behavior of the ANC and EFF in council over the last few months, they have either delayed or actively hindered some of these processes from taking place. For example, the appointment of a city manager is a crucial decision of council. Without a City Manager in place, the approval of spending on major budgets cannot occur. If you delay or sabotage this process you hold up the work of the city.
However, despite the ANC and EFF’s conduct in Council the DA government in Tshwane continued to deliver on its mandate. Core service delivery and support to residents in Tshwane continued with the reliable delivery and supply of electricity, water and sanitation and waste management services. In many instances, despite the hijacking and sabotaging of Council meetings, the administrative work carried on, although these political issues will pose challenges at critical moments such as the approval of the budget.
INSIDE METRO: The high court ruling mentioned that walking out of council meetings does not serve the councillors’ electorate and does not fulfil the constitutional and executive duties they were elected for. Do the electorate have reason to call for councillors’ salaries to be withdrawn or stopped until the matter is resolved?
WILLIAMS: I think the voters who elected EFF and ANC councilors and the residents of Tshwane have every right to call for these councilors to be suspended or disciplined on their conduct. In fact the High Court has said as much in their ruling, indicating that it is the responsibility of the MEC to discipline councillors who fail to do their duties. Voters who elected ANC and EFF councilors should call them to account on their conduct because they have clearly put party interest above that of their constituents.
INSIDE METRO: The city has been under administration since March. How have the administrators performed in terms of ensuring that Tshwane citizens get service delivery?
WILLIAMS: The administrators have failed to create any connection with the residents of Tshwane. Communication out of the city has been notoriously poor and the administrators have not managed to create any alternatives to facilitate contact with residents in the absence of councilors. During the time of COVID-19, constant communication is key and yet the decisions of the city are largely being taken behind closed doors by unelected administrators. Frustration at this is brewing as residents are finding the city to be unresponsive in responding to core service delivery complaints. It is also disturbing to note how poor collection rates have been since the administrators took office. Without a proper strategy to stabilize revenue management during the time of lockdown it could prove catastrophic for the city’s finances and stability for the future.
INSIDE METRO: Given what has happened so far in the Tshwane coalition will the DA in the metro be open to further coalition alliances going forward and why/not?
WILLIAMS: The DA remains open to talks with parties who are aligned with our vision of delivering the best quality services to our residents, ensuring their safety and building a robust and innovative capital city. Cooperative governance is a key mechanism to achieve this and it requires cooperation and compromise from all political parties represented in the city in order to deliver the best quality service to residents.
INSIDE METRO: You have said that residents of Tshwane can rest assured that DA councillors will continue to support and respond to their needs and queries during this trying time. How do you plan to do this given that the council is currently dysfunctional?
WILLIAMS: DA councilors are committed towards serving their constituents. They were duly elected during 2016 and take their legislated responsibilities seriously. A critical role played by councillors is in the way that they act as an interface between residents and the administration. DA councillors have spent years cultivating relationships with officials in the city in order to facilitate service delivery to residents. These means they can still channel concerns to the relevant officials and keep them informed of issues in the city in order to support service delivery, despite the challenges within the council chamber.
INSIDE METRO: The DA has called for MEC Lebogang Maile to be suspended following the High Court’s decision to revoke his decision to dissolve council. Is this still your position and how do you think his suspension will be of benefit to the residents of Tshwane?
WILLIAMS: Lebogang Maile is a constitutional delinquent who simply doesn’t understand the law. His decision to dissolve the Tshwane council has sabotaged service delivery in the capital city and directly undermined the decisions taken by the voters when they elected the DA to lead them in the city. The High Court eviscerated the arguments that were put forward by the province which attempted to justify the decision to dissolve the Tshwane Council. The court did not identify a single executive obligation that the city had failed to deliver on. Further to that the court actively questioned why the MEC had failed to discipline EFF and ANC councillors when they had so clearly sabotaged and disrupted council meetings. DA’s position is that he should be fired. He is a direct threat to constitutional democracy.
INSIDE METRO: Lastly, you have been announced as mayoral candidate for the Tshwane Metro by your party. Tell us what is your plan for the city and why should the public put their trust in you?
WILLIAMS: My plan for Tshwane involves these 5 key driving principles. Tshwane will become a capital city that demonstrates leadership in containing the spread of COVID-19, ensuring basic services are delivered efficiently to residents and supporting vulnerable groups and communities. Service delivery decisions will be driven by the needs of residents of the city. Transparency and regular communication will characterize the city’s engagements with residents to ensure they are kept informed on critical decisions in the city. Speed, agility and resilience will be guiding principles as the city will need to respond to a changing landscape as a result of COVID-19. We will not tolerate the city’s funds being stolen or misspent either through corruption or mismanagement. There will be strict consequences for wasteful expenditure and criminal action instituted in cases of corruption.