The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has noted that several municipalities have written to workers informing to resign as Political Office Bearers or as municipal workers. This ultimatum given to workers comes after the signing into law of the amendments to the Municipal Systems Act by President Cyril Ramaphosa late last year.
As SAMWU, we challenged the previous amendments to the Systems Act on the grounds of constitutionality, with the Constitutional Court ruling in 2017 that the amendments were unconstitutional, invalid and set aside. Parliament was directed by the Constitutional Court to present the Bill again within two years, a directive which was only done in 2022.
The 2022 amendments to the Municipal Systems Act prohibits all municipal workers from holding political office, barring them from simultaneously being a political office bearer and a municipal worker. We have, as a Union contended that the amendments to the Systems Act infringes on the rights of municipal workers, in particular Chapter 2, Clause 18 and 19 of the Bill of Rights, the cornerstone of the country’s democracy.
We are aware of the fact that Section 36 of the Constitution provides for the limitation of rights conferred upon citizens, this however can only be done under strict conditions, as per the dictates of the Constitution. We are of the view that the criteria for limitation of rights have not been met and as such, these amendments should be declared unconstitutional, invalid and set aside.
The Union’s Central Executive Committee has taken a decision to legally challenge the amendments of the Systems Act. Our challenge is strengthened by a resolution of the recently held COSATU National Congress, which saw these amendments as an attempt by government to strip municipal workers of their Constitutional rights while also weakening the working-class movement.
The current discussion in relation to the depoliticization of the local government sector find resonance with the Union. We are of the view that many of the challenges faced by the country’s municipalities are political in nature, but placing the blame on municipal workers and seeking to use them as scapegoats for the collapse of the country’s municipalities is a misdiagnosis of the root cause of municipal collapse.
It is for this reason that SAMWU calls upon all its members to ignore the ultimatum that has been issued to them by municipalities as we, along with COSATU are in the process of challenging the amendments. As per the directives issued by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs late last year, workers will have up until November 2023 to resign from political office if they wish to continue being in the employ of any municipality.
We therefore view any attempt by municipalities to harshly get workers to resign from political office as an attempt to speedily strip them of their constitutional rights. As a Union, we are positive that this matter would have been adjudicated by the Constitutional Court before the deadline and as such, there is no need for any worker to resign from political office. We remain confident that we will once again come out victorious at the Constitutional Court.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat
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National Media Officer
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