Judge Judith Roberson on Wednesday 26 July reserved judgment in the case of Paul Notyawa, who holds that he was appointed municipal manager in March 2015, against Makana Municipality and the MEC for local government, who say he wasn’t.
Arguments in the High Court in Grahamstown were led by Advocate Izak Smuts for the applicant, Notyawa; Advocate Torquil Paterson for the first respondent, Makana Municipality and Senior Counsel Richard Quinn for the second respondent, the MEC.
Notyawa lodged court papers in February this year that seek to have the court declare he was lawfully appointed in the post of municipal manager on 12 March 2015, and set aside the MEC’s decision to readvertise the post.
After several delays, the case was heard last week, on 26 July. In court documents, Notyawa says he was lawfully appointed in the post of municipal manager on 12 March 2015 and makes explosive claims of political interference by the ANC at regional, provincial and national level that prevented him from taking up the position. He seeks to be allowed to act in the position he says he was appointed to, and to receive the salary for the job, backdated to March 2015.
The municipality was in April interdicted from appointing a municipal manager pending the outcome of the case.
Central to arguments for Notyawa week remained that the purported rescindment of his appointment, at a meeting in May 2015, was done not in the interests of good administration, but with an ulterior motive.
“The officials were acting on the instruction of a political party,” Smuts said.
Assertions subsequent to Notyawa’s initial appointment that he wasn’t qualified were a shield for what was at heart a political decision.
Paterson argued a number of technical grounds for dismissing the application, including delays and the way it was framed (among these whether common law or the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act applied; and whether it was in fact a legality review as framed by the applicant, or whether he was in effect seeking an order for constitutional damages). But he too put forward strong ethical arguments.
“The granting of this relief would be highly disruptive to the municipality,” Paterson argued. He said the only benefit would be Notyawa’s restrospective employment and that lack of fulltime oversight by a properly authorised accounting officer (ie municipal manager) was one of the reasons for Makana’s financial and administrative collapse.
Should Notyawa be appointed in the post of municipal manager, he could only hold it until the end of this month. This is because of legislation that rules any appointment by a sitting council remains in force only one year after a new council is voted in.
Local government elections in August 2016 saw the election of a new council.
No date has been set for the judgment.