22 October 2023 

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) in the Free State Province is deeply concerned about the establishment of a war room at the Matjhabeng Local Municipality. This war room, which consists of the Executive Mayor, members of the Mayoral Committee (MAYCO) and political staff in the Office of the Mayor, convenes daily, after normal working hours to manage and manipulate municipal affairs, including matters which are outside of the jurisdiction of the Executive Committee such as collective bargaining. This military-style approach, spearheaded by Matjhabeng, is endorsed by the Executive Mayor, Cllr Thanduxolo Khalipha, who has weaponised the administration and municipal resources to further his political ambitions.

SAMWU has consistently voiced concerns about political interference by Cllr Khalipha and his MAYCO in the administration and operations of the municipality. Regrettably, our genuine concerns have been summarily dismissed as mere “hallucinations from individuals who do not want to be led.” SAMWU emphasises the importance of adhering to proper municipal administration and operations, as well as the separation of powers as stipulated by the Municipal Structures Act.

Due to numerous violations of the Municipal Structures Act, the war room has inappropriately taken on administrative responsibilities of the municipality, relinquishing its intended role of policy directive and oversight. This has led to a situation where Cllr Khalapha’s war room is acting as both a referee and a player, in direct violation of municipal legislation. Consequently, Matjhabeng now has a Municipal Manager (MM) who has been unjustly stripped of his legally mandated powers by the war room.

The war room has launched a deliberate and organized campaign against workers and the principles of collective bargaining within the municipality, aiming to stifle and undermine the Union’s presence in the municipality. They have taken it upon themselves to single-handedly reverse Local Labour Forum decisions, particularly regarding the agreed-upon repayment arrangements for municipal services. 

This unilateral change is a direct violation of Section 34 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and will have severe consequences for many municipal workers, as this month’s net pay will plummet to just under R1,000. We are deeply troubled by the fact that this unlawful and unilateral decision has been made without granting employees an opportunity to voice their concerns or present their case based on their financial circumstances. 

What is particularly concerning to us is that this illegal and unilateral rescission of the agreement has been executed without providing employees with an opportunity to be heard or to present their case based on their financial circumstances. This not only violates labour laws but also disregards the financial well-being of the municipality’s workers.

Currently, the war room is considering the reversal of employee transfers that took place several years ago. Their decision is that all employees who were previously transferred should return to their original positions. It is essential to highlight that these transfers were carried out in accordance with the municipality’s policies. For us, these decisions made by the war room are akin to unilateral changes in employment conditions and constitute unfair labour practices. We are committed to challenging these decisions despite the attempts by Cllr Khalipha to weaken the Union. Our stance is unwavering in ensuring the protection of the rights and interests of our members.

The situation in Matjhabeng is a matter of deep concern for both the residents and the workers in the municipality. The continuous political interference has left the municipality unable to provide the high-quality services that the community deserves. What’s more, the MM and the Executive Management have seen their powers and responsibilities stripped away by the war room. 

This situation has forced them into compliance with the war room’s illegal actions, driven by the fear of losing their jobs and falling out of favour with Cllr Khalipha. As a result, the war room has turned into a slaughterhouse for professional careers, where both executive management and ordinary workers face the consequences in an attempt to advance Cllr Khalipha’s political ambitions and personal interests. This state of affairs is not conducive to effective governance or service delivery in Matjhabeng.

Cllr Khalipha’s actions have resulted in him becoming an untouchable figure who capitalizes on his alleged proximity to the President and other senior political leaders at both the provincial and national levels. His self-importance and perceived influence have transformed him into a tyrant who unscrupulously misuses public resources. The people and residents of Matjhabeng are now suffering the consequences of these violations of municipal legislation and the abuse of power and resources. The service quality they deserve is compromised as a result of these actions, which ultimately undermine the public trust in the local government’s ability to deliver on its responsibilities. 

SAMWU is dedicated to promoting municipalities that are free from political interference and maladministration. To this end, we call upon Cllr Khalipha to provide the residents of Matjhabeng with transparency regarding the staffing complement in his office. The residents deserve to know if the staff structure in his office aligns with the approved organizational structure of the municipality. Equally crucial is the need for residents to be informed of the financial implications of these deviations from this structure on the municipality’s finances. Transparency is essential for ensuring good governance and accountability in local government. 

Cllr Khalipha should not present himself to the public as a proponent of clean and ethical governance while engaging in unethical behaviour and governance. His actions must align with the principles of honesty and ethical conduct that are expected of public officials. 

The Union  is deeply concerned about the silence of Councillors and the ANC, particularly the provincial leadership, in response to the conduct of Cllr Khalipha. We therefore call upon the ANC to take immediate action and intervene in Matjhabeng to protect what remains of the municipality. Urgent intervention is essential to ensure that the municipality can continue to provide services to the poor and vulnerable residents. The ANC has a responsibility towards the community to prevent the municipality from further deterioration.

Issued by SAMWU Free State Province 

Tiisetso Mahlatsi, Provincial Secretary (079 152 9648)

Sandla Mahlati, Deputy Provincial Secretary (072 658 0725)

Papikie Mohale, National Media Officer (076 795 8670)