The high court in Pretoria has set aside the decision by Gauteng co-operative governance MEC Lebogang Maile to place the Tshwane metropolitan council under administration.
The hung council — which had been paralysed since the collapse of the Democratic Alliance-Economic Freedom Fighters coalition and the scandal involving former mayor Stevens Mokgalapa, who resigned in February — was dissolved at the beginning of March.
Gauteng premier David Makhura announced the suspension following the failure of a series of council meetings to take place, saying a by-election would have to be held within 90 days.
The coalition between the EFF, DA and smaller parties, which took control of the council after the 2016 local government elections, collapsed during 2019, with the chaos that ensued resulting in the council failing to meet.
The DA took the matter to court, arguing that the decision was politically motivated.
After delays because of the Covid-19 lockdown, the court took time to consider the matter.
On Wednesday it reviewed the decision, declared it unlawful and set it aside.
However, the court ruled that the decision should be implemented only after the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted. A council meeting would be held within five days of the lockdown ending.
In the interim, it said the councillors were reinstated and the administration team appointed by Maile, led by former West Rand district mayor Mpho Nawa and acting municipal manager Mavela Dlamini, will remain in place. Council staff will continue to deliver services and receive their salaries.
In a tweet, DA leader John Steenhuisen said the judgment confirmed the DA’s argument that the collapse was caused by ANC and EFF councillors whose continued walkouts left the council unable to conduct its business.
Steenhuisen said the DA would call for Maile, who should have acted against the errant councillors rather than dissolving the council, to be suspended.
The party was also considering taking action in the National Council of Provinces over the decision.
“This judgment confirms what the DA has said since the start of the disruptions to the Tshwane council: that this decision to place Tshwane under administration was nothing but a poorly disguised attempt to take back, undemocratically, what the ANC had lost at the ballot box,” Steenhuisen said.
“Today’s judgment is a big victory for democracy, and a serious setback for those intent on undermining it.”
Maile’s spokesperson, Castro Ngobese, was not immediately available for comment.