Republic of South Africa: Western Cape, Department of Local Government

Anton Bredell, Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, said the judgement declaring the appointment of Ombali Sebola as Knysna’s Municipal Manager null and void should be seen as a strong warning message to councils that do not respect the relevant legal frameworks when making appointments in municipalities.

“This judgement is another victory for the rule of law and strengthens and confirms our interpretation of legislation that governs municipal appointments. It is unfortunate that we sometimes have to communicate through the courts to a council, but we also understand the dire consequences of having unqualified and unsuited individuals in critical positions in a municipality. We will remain firm on the minimum requirements and procedural requirements as set out in law, and councils should reacquaint themselves with these before embarking on recruitment to avoid the steps that we have had to take on this matter.”

“It cannot be that it takes more than a year of legal wrangling to set aside an appointment that was patently illegal right from the start. While we were fighting in court, Knysna has been paralysed by a lack of basic service delivery and we have had to work with officials who are more focussed on retaining their positions than on what they have been appointed to do, which is to serve the residents of Knysna,” Minister Bredell said.

On 22 March 2023 Minister Bredell sought, by way of an urgent application, to declare the decision taken by the Knysna Municipal Council on 25 January 2023 to appoint Ombali Phineas Sebola as its Municipal Manager, null and void, and in further orders, in the event of opposition, an order of costs.

In its correspondence to the Executive Mayor on 23 February 2023, Minister Bredell alerted the Executive Mayor, that the appointment of Mr Sebola was made in contravention of the provisions of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000 and the Regulations on Appointment and Conditions of Employment of Senior Managers, as published in Government Gazette No. 37245 of 17 January 2014.

Minister Bredell requested the municipality to terminate the appointment, failing which he would take appropriate steps to enforce compliance with the provisions of the Municipal Systems Act and the Appointment Regulations. No such steps were forthcoming from the Municipality, leading to the Minister to institute legal proceedings declaring that the appointment is null and void and seeking that it be set aside.

The Court in its ruling expressly held that critical required information was not placed before the Municipal Council at the time when it made its decision to appoint Mr Sebola. In this respect, there was a failure to provide Council with the Curriculum Vitae of the appointee, nor was the weighted scores allocated to the candidates during the assessment of their competency tabled before Council. In addition, it was apparent that Council did not have before it information related to the candidates leading competencies and core competencies. 

The Court further held that the applicant’s application was devoid of his academic qualifications, contactable references, registration with a professional body, full details of dismissal for misconduct and details of any disciplinary actions pending, instituted, or finalized against the candidate, which is specifically required in terms of the applicable Regulations.

According to the Court, “it is …. clear that the process of appointment was riddled by one or more procedural flaw and that certain documents which were supposed to have been before the Council were not, prior to the final appointment decision being made.” As a result, it was evident that the Municipal Council did not comply with the Municipal Systems Act and the applicable Regulations regulating the appointment process.

Minister Bredell said the length of time and legal costs to reach this point is unsustainable, and better consequence management is needed to deal with such cases.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Western Cape, Department of Local Government.