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MEDIA ADVISORY: SAHRC TO LAY CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE DR JS MOROKA LOCAL MUNICIPALITY

Attention: Editors and Reporters

12 NOVEMBER 2020

On 11 November 2020, the South African Human Rights Commission (“Commission”) convened a subpoena hearing in terms of section 15(1)(c) and (d) of the South African Human Rights Commission Act 40 of 2013 (“SAHRC Act”), following the failure of Mr B.M. Mhlanga (“Mr Mhlanga”), the Administrator of Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality (“Municipality”), to respond to allegations levelled against the Municipality relating to water shortages at Loding.

The subpoena proceedings come at the back of failed attempts to secure the Municipality’s response to the above allegations. In this regard, the above allegations were brought to the attention of the Municipality on 19 March 2020, with a response requested by 17 April 2020. When the response was not received on 17 April 2020, follow up correspondences were sent to the Municipality on 23 April 2020, 12 May 2020, 18 May 2020 and 10 June 2020. In addition to the written communication to the Municipality, and Mr Mhlanga in particular, Mr Mhlanga was contacted telephonically by the Commission on 18 May 2020, 10 June 2020, 29 June 2020, 10 July 2020 and 29 July 2020.

On 10 November 2020, a day before the scheduled hearing, the Municipality made a written request for the rescheduling of the hearing to dates later in the month. The reason given for the request was that the Municipality is still preparing a response regarding the matter. There was no explanation given as to why the response was still not ready when the matter was brought to the attention of the Municipality in March 2020 (and directly to the Administrator in May 2020) and the subpoena notice was served on the Municipality on 28 September 2020.
In view of the scant justifications given for the request for postponement, the request was rejected. Mr Mhlanga was consequently reminded that he was obliged to appear before the Commission as scheduled.

Notwithstanding the above advice, Mr Mhlanga elected not to appear before the Commission for the subpoena hearing as scheduled.

Sections 22(a), (d) and (h) of the SAHRC Act provides that any person who without just cause, refuses or fails to comply with a notice under section 15(1)(c) of the SAHRC Act, or in connection with any investigation does anything which, if such investigation were proceeding in a court of law, would have constituted contempt of court or fails to afford the Commission the necessary assistance referred to in section 4(2) or 13(4) of the SAHRC Act, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.

Having considered the request for postponement and the submissions made, the hearing Chairperson determined that no proper basis was made for the request for postponement and that consequently, Mr Mhlanga’s failure to appear before the Commission as scheduled was without just cause and constituted a contempt of the Commission’s proceedings, as well as a failure to afford the necessary assistance to the Commission as contemplated in sections 22(a), (d) and (h) of the SAHRC Act.

In view, therefore, the Chairperson directed that criminal proceedings be instituted against Mr Mhlanga and that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (“COGTA”) consider reprimanding Mr Mhlanga for his unbecoming conduct. It was further directed that Mr Mhlanga should appear before the Commission on 22 January 2021 at 09:00 for the hearing of the matter.

The Commission is deeply concerned with how the Municipality and Mr Mhlanga in particular, conducted himself in this matter. With the administration of the Municipality having collapsed, necessitating that the Municipality be placed under administration under the stewardship of Mr Mhlanga, it is imperative that Mr Mhlanga conducts himself in a manner that upholds the highest standards to professionalism and care, if he is to inspire confidence in himself as an Administrator and restore public trust in the Municipality’s ability to properly conduct its affairs. Mr Mhlanga’s showing in this matter regrettably falls far below the standard required of him as an Administrator.  It is hoped that Mr Mhlanga would take note of the determination made in this matter and take the necessary steps to self-correct.

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For further information or enquiries, please contact: SAHRC Mpumalanga Provincial Manager, Mr. E Mokonyama (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 073 585 5944).

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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