We Don’t Have a Coalition Problem, We Have a Randall Williams Problem

ActionSA is committed to making this coalition government work in the City of Tshwane because it is what the residents of this City demand from us. The residents of The Capital voted the ANC out following years of mismanagement, and we have a duty to the residents to ensure that coalitions do not give them more of the same.

To this end, we raised legitimate concerns with our coalition partners that the proposal for an unsolicited bid, in this regard, was riddled with questions of legality, and we owed it to the residents and ourselves to fully ventilate those concerns before bringing a proposal of this magnitude to Council.

Executive Mayor Randall Williams and the DA would like you to believe that ActionSA is opposed to ending the city’s reliance on the nation’s beleaguered energy utility.

ActionSA is committed to finding innovative and sustainable solutions to the electricity woes experienced in this country, but we do not believe that we must violate law and due process to achieve those ends. It is contained in our published policies, and we fought for independent power production to be a central and transversal priority of the multi-party coalition. To suggest otherwise is to deflect to avoid the discomfort of what this matter is truly about.

Our issue is not with the vision but with the process. A flawed process that runs the risk of undermining the entire endeavour, committing the City to a long-term deal which will not produce the results, will be challenged in court and will bring problems and not electricity to the residents of Tshwane.

Section 113(2) of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) requires any consideration of an unsolicited bid to comply with at least one of the four requirements listed below:

(a)       the product or service offered in terms of the bid is a demonstrably or proven unique innovative concept;

(b)       the product or service will be exceptionally beneficial to, or have exceptional cost advantages for, the municipality or municipal entity;

(c)       the person who made the bid is the sole provider of the product or service; and

(d)       the reasons for not going through the normal bidding processes are found to be sound by the accounting officer.

The report is silent on which of the above considerations are relevant in this proposal and that is because it is not compliant with any of the above criteria. Independent and renewable energy is not a proven unique concept, this company is most certainly not a sole provider of this service and the report brought to Council is silent on the price of electricity to flow from this deal. In the recording that is circulating, senior municipal officials record their concern that the project will produce a higher price of electricity.

ActionSA is in possession of communication from the Provincial Treasury (attached) which raises a number of concerns about the compliance of this unsolicited bid. They indicate requirements for the unsolicited bid to be compliant in terms of Section 113(2) of the MFMA and there is no information to indicate whether these requirements have been met. We are reliably informed that National Treasury has also raised concerns about this proposal as an unsolicited bid.

Beyond this it is understood that the service provider, from which this proposal has arisen, does not have prior experience in this kind of project and does not hold a valid NERSA-issued license to independently produce electricity. The proposal makes the assumption that this can be done from the license held by the City but no engagements have been had with ESKOM or NERSA on this matter.

Deepening the distrust of this entire matter, is the question of the involvement of the Executive Mayor and his office. This entire process appears to have arisen from within the political office of the Executive Mayor and not the municipal departments responsible for energy or economic development. We have all heard the recording in which Mayor Williams bulldozes the concerns raised by municipal officials and says:

“It is the role of the executive authority to take strategic decisions and the role of the administration is to implement those decisions, whether they agree or disagree with that decision, that is not their call. So when this unsolicited bid came through, and I have taken the decision that it should go through as an unsolicited bid your duty as officials were then to implement that decision.”

This statement merely corroborates ActionSA’s concern that this process has been driven politically, in contravention of municipal legislation and demonstrates how Mayor Williams has attempted to bludgeon this through the coalition and Council.

However, and I say this without equivocation, ActionSA is not in coalition to serve Mayors or service providers, we are here to replace corrupt ANC governments with effective and honest coalition government. Our rejection of this report was to ensure that the coalition does not become that which we have sought to remove.

If one truly wishes to assess the DA’s hypocrisy on this matter, ask only this question. “How would the DA in opposition have responded to this kind of proposal if it has arisen from the ANC?” I believe we all know the answer.

It is also Mayor Williams’ willingness to trample on the coalition agreement that serves to prove the unhealthy level of desperation for this specific proposal. ActionSA objected to the proposal when it was shown to us 2 days before the council meeting of 28 July 2022. Section 6.7.1 of the signed coalition agreement states as follows:

6.7.1     Council Disputes:         Any disputes that arise from a party or parties raising an objection to an item on the Council agenda shall be resolved in terms of this section.         Once an item is removed from the council agenda due to the objection of a party or parties, a meeting must be convened with the Executive Mayor, Speaker, relevant MMC, Section 79 Committee Chairperson and the caucus leaders the parties in order to agree to the changes necessary to resolve the dispute.

Mayor Williams refused to remove the matter from the council agenda on 28 July 2022, it was only for the intervention of the FF Plus that the matter was removed at the 11th hour. In respect of these events, on 2 August 2022, ActionSA submitted a complaint to the national structures of the coalition. While the national coalition sought dates to meet to discuss ActionSA’s complaint, Mayor Williams convened a special Council Meeting for 16 August 2022 with the matter again on the agenda. On 14 August 2022 ActionSA wrote to the national structures of the coalition outlining all of our concerns about the proposal and requiring that the matter be removed from the agenda pending efforts to resolve the dispute. The DA did not even respond.

Following a statement made by Mayor Williams to ActionSA that “we will pass this proposal with or without you”, ActionSA learnt that Mayor Williams and the DA held secret briefing sessions with the ANC and EFF on Thursday 11 August 2022 in a bid to secure their support for this proposal. ActionSA has never coordinated with any party in respect of our opposition to this illegal proposal, but the DA cannot say the same. In contravention of their national position, they sought the support of the EFF.

The actions of Mayor Williams and the DA created a perfect storm by forcing a highly contentions proposal onto the floor of Council despite the stated concerns of the 2nd biggest party in the coalition. This should have been dealt with in terms of our coalition agreement and through a mature effort to work through the concerns. The fact that it ended up being such a public display of how not to run a multi-party coalition, lies solely at the feet of Mayor Williams and the DA.

To the many who feel deeply frustrated by seeing these matters being dealt with in the public, denting the image of multi-party coalitions in the run up to 2024, we say that ActionSA shares this frustration. However, ActionSA offers the following by way of comfort – that it was because of this being a multi-party coalition that an illegal deal has been stopped. Had the DA held a majority in this municipality, it would have been forced through to the detriment of the people of Tshwane.

ActionSA wants to provide all residents of Tshwane with the following assurance. We are deeply committed to multi-party coalition, and we are deeply committed to keeping the ANC out of any government where ActionSA exists. We do not have a coalition problem; we have a Randall Williams problem. We feel obligated to lay a complaint before the Office of the Public Protector because we are in possession of evidence that needs to be assessed. In accordance with our commitment to the residents of Tshwane and this multi-party coalition agreement, we will raise our concerns about Mayor Williams within the national structures of the multi-party coalition.

While affirming our commitment to this coalition, and the DA’s holding of the Mayoralty affirmed in the agreement, ActionSA will, in the coming days, debate the question of whether Randall Williams can continue to serve as Mayor of Tshwane. Consistent with our commitment to this coalition, we will address this question within the multi-party coalition structures.