17 November 2023
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) notes and welcomes the recent judgment delivered by Judge J Van Niekerk at the Labour Court. The amendments to the Municipal Systems Act, were signed into law by President Ramaphosa in 2022. The amendments sought to impose a blanket prohibition on municipal workers holding office. SAMWU found it necessary to take the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to court when they unjustly infringed upon the rights of municipal workers.
We welcome Judge Van Niekerk’s ruling which declared that Section 71b of the MSA Amendments are unconstitutional, invalid, and set aside. Judge Van Niekerk has further declared that his ruling be sent to the Constitutional Court for confirmation.
Since the amendments were enacted in October 2022, SAMWU opposed them, considering them a violation of workers’ constitutional rights. The current form of these amendments infringes on the rights of municipal workers, as outlined in the Bill of Rights, ensuring full and equal enjoyment of rights and freedoms for all South Africans.
SAMWU has consistently relied on the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, to challenge these amendments. The Bill of Rights guarantees the right to freedom of association, and Section 19(1) grants all South Africans the right to make political choices. According to Section 19(b), everyone has the right “to participate in activities of, or recruit members for, a political party.” These rights are further reinforced by Section 19(3)(b), stating that all South Africans have the right “to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office.”
We are pleased that our position has been fully presented in court, vindicating SAMWU, especially considering that many of our members were given ultimatums to resign from employment or their chosen political party. We trust that SALGA, having complicated the situation this week by issuing a memorandum to municipalities, will now inform all municipalities to comply with this ruling.
This ruling is a victory for all municipal workers who faced the threat of having their constitutional rights stripped away under the pretext of depoliticizing local government—a fallacy propagated by SALGA and COGTA. Today, the court has confirmed the rights of workers, absolving SAMWU.
We further trust that SALGA and COGTA will fully comply with this ruling and avoid wasting taxpayers’ money on further litigation. Judge Van Niekerk has already ordered the two entities to pay the costs of this application. Continuing this matter would be a fruitless and wasteful exercise, and those instructing further action should be held personally liable.
We extend our gratitude to our federation, COSATU, for standing by us since the federation’s resolution to support SAMWU in challenging these amendments. Lastly, we thank our members for their patience, allowing us to address this matter.
A luta continua!
Issued by: SAMWU Secretariat
(076 580 4029)
Deputy General Secretary
(082 526 5224)
For Enquiries contact:
Sandile Ngcobo (079 642 9128)