The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Select Committee of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), in its meeting of 8 June 2021, unanimously decided to terminate the section 139(1)(b) intervention by Free State MEC Nxangisa in the Metsimaholo municipality.
The intervention was originally decided upon by the Free State Provincial Government’s Executive Committee (EXCO) on 11 February 2020, and was not ratified by the NCOP as required by the Constitution.
Various legal actions have been instituted by the MEC against the Metsimaholo council who disputed the need for the intervention. A former municipal manager also went to court disputing his suspension by council.
On 10 December 2020, the Free State EXCO again confirmed the Metsimaholo section 139(1)(b) intervention and requested the NCOP to ratify the decision.
Since December, the NCOP has had various engagements with the MEC and HOD of COGTA in the Free State, and with the various parties in the Metsimaholo council. It came to the conclusion that the intervention is no longer necessary, that the existing problems can be addressed by the council itself, and that the intervention be terminated with immediate effect. The MEC is further instructed to provide continuous support to the municipality as mandated in section 154 of the Constitution.
The Select Committee further noted with concern that the first intervention of 25 February 2020 did not comply with constitutional requirements and was procedurally flawed. This could have serious financial implications for the Free State Department of COGTA, which had incurred significant costs during the intervention.
The Democratic Alliance is pleased by this decision of the Select Committee, which has confirmed the strict constitutional requirements of instituting section 139 interventions. It is not something to be undertaken lightly, nor may it be used for narrow political objectives.
We believe that MEC Nxangisa has too often been abusing the section 139 power of intervention in an ad-hoc and arbitrary fashion, to further political objectives in the Free State. While section 139 mandates provincial and national governments to intervene where councils are dysfunctional and service delivery to residents has collapsed, it is not a power to be used to interfere in the autonomous local government sphere to achieve ANC internal factional objectives.