Detail from an illustration of part of the process
Detail from an illustration of part of the process of determining the staff requirements for a municipality.
  • Municipalities now have rules, running to nearly 800 pages, on how to handle their employees, starting with how to hire them.
  • Co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma published the regulations on Monday, a little over a month before local government elections.
  • They demand that all staff be appointed using a process previously established for senior managers, with interview panels and extensive notes kept to make hiring decisions legally defendable. 
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On 1 November, South Africans are due to vote for their local government representatives. On Monday – 41 days before that election – those local governments were handed a rulebook running to nearly 800 pages on how to figure out how many staff they should have, how to develop employees of municipalities, and exactly how new staff should be hired.

Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma published the rules, formally known as the Municipal Staff Regulations, in the Government Gazette on Monday.

Though they replace 2014 rules which applied only to senior managers, the new regulations explicitly cover all municipal staff, with the option for Dlamini-Zuma to extend it to cover municipal entities, such as those set up to run roads or electricity in major metros.

That binds municipalities to hire all staff by committee, with a selection panel of between three and five people who are required to formally declare they have no conflicts of interest, such as being "indebted to any of the interviewed candidates or vice versa". If conflicts emerge, the hiring process can be scrapped entirely.

Under the rules, union representatives have observer status in the interviews of shortlisted candidates, and "alternative recruitment methods" such as head-hunting may only be considered after a failed process of advertisement, shortlisting, and interviews.

Reference checks must include whether a candidate had been previously dismissed from a municipality for a list of 11 possible breaches, such as "[s]oliciting or accepting directly or indirectly any gift or favour that may influence the exercise of his or her functions". Each of the listed forms of misconduct comes with a minimum time that must elapse before the guilty party may be appointed to a post in a municipality again. In the case of soliciting a bribe, that is five years.

Any hire must be by way of a "legally defendable" process, the rules make clear, from start to finish.

"Adequate records of the entire selection process must be maintained including: selection and shortlisting criteria; reasons for inclusion or exclusion of the candidates; copies of other assessment results; notes on the interview assessments of each candidate; reference checks; and notes on the deliberations informing the selection decision. These records should be kept in a secure location on the municipality’s premises."

Under the rules, new municipal staff must have specified qualifications for their jobs, but any appointed before the new rules "shall be deemed to be meeting the requirement of the post".

The new regulations do not affect contracts concluded before their promulgation. They come into effect on 1 July 2022.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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