President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, which prohibits senior municipal officials from holding positions in political parties.
The regulation aims to improve the capacity and ethical standards of local government through, among other things, the way in which senior appointments are made.
The law also allows municipalities to conduct nationwide recruitment searches, to broaden the pool of talent they can attract.
According to a statement from the presidency, the new legislation is an important element in redressing the performance of local government, preventing the abuse of public resources and eradicating the sheltering of civil servants who move from a municipality as a result of wrongdoing.
Among its far-reaching interventions, the new legislation provides for the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to issue regulations relating to the duties, remuneration, benefits and other conditions of employment of municipal managers and managers directly responsible to municipal managers. . .
The law requires that a vacancy for a municipal administrator be advertised nationally in order to attract as wide a pool of candidates as possible. A person can only be selected for appointment as City Manager from this pool of candidates.
If the pool of applicants is insufficient, the city council may re-advertise the position. It is however expected that the Minister will exempt a council from these strict nomination requirements if the council is unable to attract a suitable candidate, which can happen particularly in rural areas.
The legislative amendments prohibit municipal managers and managers directly responsible to municipal managers from holding political office in political parties.
The presidency said:
Political office refers to the office of president, vice president, secretary, deputy secretary or treasurer of a political party nationally or in any province, region or other area in which the party operates. Senior executives’ other political rights are not affected by the amendment and they retain the right to freely enjoy and exercise those rights.
The regulation also stipulates that any staff member of a municipality who has been terminated for misconduct may only be rehired in a municipality after the expiration of a prescribed period.
“A staff member dismissed for financial misconduct under the Local Government Act: Municipal Financial Management Act 2003 [Act No. 56 of 2003]corruption or fraud, cannot be rehired for a period of five years,” the presidency said.
Municipalities are now required to keep a record of disciplinary proceedings against staff dismissed for misconduct and forward it to the provincial member of the local government executive council, who must forward it to the Minister for safekeeping and make available to municipalities as prescribed.
Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude to the significant number of stakeholders, including individuals, who participated in the public consultation process on this legislation.
The amendments adopted by Parliament show that the concerns of the communities have been heard and acted upon. A capable and ethical state requires a strong foundation at the local level, and the new law will go a long way to building community trust in local government and enabling stronger partnerships and cooperation between municipalities and the communities they serve.