South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) in the Free State has reacted with fury following government’s intervention to halt the auctioning of Kopanong Municipality’s assets.
The troubled municipality has been saved from having more than 60 of its fleet auctioned off.

The Bloemfontein High Court had ordered that movable assets of the cash-strapped municipality be attached after it failed to pay workers’ benefits, such as pensions.

The embattled Kopanong Municipality is in dire financial straits. The situation has worsened in almost 10 years. The municipality is unable to honour its statutory obligations, which include pension funds, medical aid contributions and workers insurance premiums. This has resulted in the lapsing of some policies.

Samwu had managed to secure a High Court order in 2017 to attach municipal assets in order to recover over R58 million in unpaid pension fund contributions.

Free State Samwu Secretary, Tiisetso Mahlatsi, has accused government of not having the interests of workers at heart.

“The same municipality that we are talking about, Kopanong, has been at the centre of poor management for years. The issue of pensions started way back in 2013. And CoGTA has been there and has failed to intervene. What will be a different story now? It is just that the attachment of the municipality fleet is an embarrassment to the ruling party, so they are saving the municipality embarrassment. But they are not sympathetic to the employees.”

Free State Cooperative Governance Spokesperson, Zolile Lobe, contends that the planned auction did not follow proper procedures.

“Our biggest fear was that the situation should not affect or tamper with service delivery. So, for now, there is a stay of execution. So, the property of the municipality would not be attached. Also, there was a technical issue in how the execution was executed, the problem being the executioners did not follow the due process in terms of notifying the municipality.”

The department says it will be providing support to the municipality to improve revenue in order to service workers’ retirement funds.