/ 7 June 2013

Editorial: No MEC is above the law

Editorial: No Mec Is Above The Law

Last year, she tried to force a relocation of the Gauteng Gambling Board, a move apparently designed to benefit a private company. The appeal court did not delve into that issue, but concentrated

 on Mahlangu's reckless conduct and the way she flouted the law – including the Constitution – to get her way.

When the board members resisted her, Mahlangu fired them all, claiming she was empowered by the law to do as she saw fit. Members of the board turned to the South Gauteng High Court for relief, seeking a declaration of invalidity, but were unsuccessful.

They went to the appeal court, which has ordered the department to reinstate the board with immediate effect. In its judgment, the appeal court agreed with the board that it was not financially prudent to relocate to another building soon after constructing an office for ­R101-million. It agreed that there was a possibility that the move would have been in ­violation of the Public Finance Management Act and treasury regulations, ­making the board vulnerable to criminal prosecution.

The appeals court judgment is welcome. It reminds civil servants that they do their work under the rule of law – and the law defines where their powers begin and end. Even a provincial cabinet job does not turn its holder into a godling ruling a personal fiefdom. Being high-handed, as Mahlangu was, or giving one's ego full rein is not part of a public servant's job.