City of Joburg cuts ties with 'politicised' Salga

The City of Johannesburg has effectively cut ties with the South African Local Government Association (Salga), approving the non-payment of subscription fees to it.

According to Mayor Herman Mashaba, Salga has become a "politicised structure failing in its obligations towards the City of Johannesburg".

He accused the association of dereliction of duty towards the City.

"Unfortunately, no formal correspondence has been received from the City of Johannesburg formally cancelling its membership to Salga," Salga spokesperson Phindile Chauke told News24. 

Mashaba explained that critical leadership roles within the organisation were predominantly taken up by "individuals aligned to the ANC".

"Recent conduct by the organisation suggests that it is politically aligned at worst, or grossly negligent of its members at best," Mashaba said in a statement.

Samwu divisions

Following the 2016 local government elections, the country experienced a shift in political leadership across numerous municipalities, including three of the largest metros.

Mashaba said the membership structure of Salga – which afforded one seat to each municipality – was not proportional to the population of each municipality.

Read: Mashaba's Joburg budget finally passed

He said this resulted in a misalignment between the political composition of Salga and the political composition of its member municipalities.

"This is not the first time these concerns have been raised with the organisation. Disappointingly, representations made by the City on these matters have fallen on deaf ears," Mashaba said.

He added that since 2015, internal divisions within the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) had resulted in two conflicting factions within the organisation each claiming to be the legitimate representatives of Samwu.

"It should be noted that the Samwu dispute and factionalism experienced locally is not limited to the City of Johannesburg, but is problematic in the national, provincial and most local structures of Samwu," Mashaba said.

Court application

Mashaba added that with the local impasse on the legitimate leadership of Samwu, the City wrote to Salga requesting its guidance and intervention, but the association failed to provide any.

"Following Salga's failure to intervene, the City approached the courts – with Salga as a second applicant – to seek clarity from the court regarding which Samwu faction was legitimate," he said.

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Mashaba said the City was expecting Salga to support its position and file documents in support of the City's application. But the association failed to do so too.

Salga told News24 that it was not mandatory for the association as an employer body to intervene or join a dispute between a union and a member-municipality. 

"The dispute between Johannesburg and the union which is referenced as the reason for the attack on Salga is already before the Labour Court, and Salga has indicated, as one of the respondents, that we will await and abide by the anticipated court ruling," said Chauke.

Mashaba accused of wanting a 'state with a state'

Former City of Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau is the president of Salga.

Tau lost his position as mayor during the local elections in August 2016 which saw Mashaba elected mayor of the City.

Since taking over, Mashaba has axed several projects which started under Tau.

These include Jozi My Beginning, the Jozi Digital Ambassadors programme as well as the micro mushroom farms and stone paper projects.

The ANC in the Johannesburg region said in a statement on Friday that the cutting of ties with Salga would be detrimental to the City's employees.

"The decision basically means that City of Joburg employees are now outside of the Local Government Bargaining Chamber. The workers will henceforth be vulnerable to abuse by the DA-led coalition whose interests are for the free market forces and anti-workers," said ANC Joburg region spokesperson Jolidee Matongo. 

It says that it will take up the matter with the relevant authorities. 

"What Mashaba is trying to do is to declare Johannesburg a state within a state. Previously he has mentioned that he wants his own courts and jails. Is this move out of Salga a step in the direction of creating another 'Volkstaat'? said Matongo.