‘Court can’t be held at gun­point’

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NORTH­ERN Cape High Court Judge President Pule Tlaletsi yes­ter­day ad­vised coun­sel for the DA that laws could not be bro­ken and that the court could not be held “at gun­point” by the com­mu­nity, dur­ing ar­gu­ments to de­bate the va­lid­ity of a spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing that was held to un­seat Sol Plaatje ex­ec­u­tive mayor Man­gal­iso Matika last month.

Tlaletsi in­di­cated that he would de­liver judg­ment on or be­fore Au­gust 31.

Matika is chal­leng­ing his re­moval, where he claims that the meet­ing was un­law­ful and that he was sur­prised by the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in him.

Tlaletsi was con­cerned that some coun­cil­lors were ex­cluded from the meet­ing.

“This is not in­clu­sive, par­tic­i­pa­tory democ­racy and could cre­ate fer­tile ground for fac­tion­al­ism. The first re­quest for a spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing was not signed by a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors. The act­ing Speaker took ex­cep­tion to six of the sig­na­to­ries on the re­quest. There was no de­bate re­gard­ing the re­moval of the mayor.”

Coun­sel for the DA re­quested the court to in­struct the act­ing Speaker at Sol Plaatje Mu­nic­i­pal­ity to con­vene a spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing within the next five days, in the event that it could not val­i­date the re­moval of Matika.

Le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the DA, ad­vo­cate Ncumisa Mayosi from Cape Town, in­di­cated that Matika had no in­ten­tion of va­cat­ing or im­ple­ment­ing the coun­cil res­o­lu­tion of the spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing.

“Matika elected not to at­tend the spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing. He ap­proached the court on July 30, five days after the res­o­lu­tion was passed. It is clear that he in­tends to re­main in his po­si­tion and only agreed to va­cate fol­low­ing an in­terim court agree­ment on July 31.

Coun­cil­lors were not do­ing any­thing wrong, although it crossed their minds that there was some un­cer­tainty.”

Mayosi stated that the coun­cil­lors acted to avert a cri­sis and to pro­tect busi­nesses and the com­mu­nity from an im­mi­nent ci­ty­wide shut­down, where masses of peo­ple were plan­ning to stage a protest against Matika on July 25.

“The de­ci­sion was not taken lightly and all pos­si­ble steps were taken to fol­low pro­ce­dures. There was noth­ing vex­a­tious about their ac­tions. Peo­ple were pan­ick­ing – there was no sug­ges­tion to get rid of the mayor.”

She ac­knowl­edged that there were var­i­ous is­sues of non-com­pli­ance, in­clud­ing the 24-hour no­tice pe­riod for the spe­cial meet­ing, as well as the fail­ure of the act­ing Speaker not to is­sue no­tices for the meet­ing.

“The meet­ing that was held was con­sti­tuted with a quo­rum of ma­jor­ity coun­cil­lors (34 out of a to­tal of 64) from all po­lit­i­cal par­ties, while a 35th coun­cil­lor signed the at­ten­dance reg­is­ter upon his late ar­rival. This is an ex­am­ple of democ­racy – where the ANC, DA, EFF, Cope and the Free­dom Front Plus, as well as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date, were unan­i­mous in cast­ing their votes. This is a very un­usual thing that hap­pened. They acted in the in­ter­ests of jus­tice with a view to re­solv­ing the mat­ter.”

Mayosi pointed out that a re­quest made to the act­ing Speaker for an ur­gent spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing, dated July 23, was not an­swered and with­out any rea­sons be­ing pro­vided, while a sec­ond re­quest was made on July 25.

“The ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors were in at­ten­dance of the coun­cil meet­ing on July 25, from 10am and be­tween 12.30pm un­til 1.30pm in cham­bers, wait­ing for the le­gal ad­viser, act­ing municipal man­ager or act­ing Speaker – who was obliged to at­tend.”

She stated that even if the six sig­na­tures un­der ques­tion were not con­sid­ered, there would have still been a ma­jor­ity of 33 coun­cil­lors in at­ten­dance.

“No coun­cil­lor was de­lib­er­ately ex­cluded from the meet­ing. The meet­ing was well pub­li­cised and was at­tended by mem­bers of the pub­lic.

“The mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Matika was not a new is­sue and was served at three pre­vi­ous coun­cil meet­ings. It is im­prob­a­ble that he was un­aware of the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in him. Coun­cil­lors weighed the risks and acted in the in­ter­ests of the com­mu­nity.”

Ad­vo­cate Alme Stan­ton, ap­pear­ing for Matika, stated that the spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing that was held to re­move him was in­valid.

“At least 24 hour no­tice must be given for an ur­gent spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing. Matika is adamant that he did not re­ceive any no­tice. He was not af­forded rea­son­able time to as­sem­ble the rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion or present his case or de­fend his po­si­tion.”

Stan­ton ex­plained that while the act­ing municipal man­ager was await­ing a writ­ten re­quest for the meet­ing, the DA pro­ceeded with the meet­ing.

“The ar­gu­ment that the com­mu­nity was dis­rup­tive and could not give no­tice of the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in the mayor does not hold wa­ter. The cir­cum­stances that led up to the meet­ing and the pend­ing dis­ci­plinary process against Matika must be scru­ti­nised.”

She pointed out that Matika had met with the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the com­mu­nity to dis­cuss the elec­tric­ity tar­iffs.

“There was no com­pli­ance or ad­ver­tise­ment for the meet­ing. The DA per­sisted with the in­valid coun­cil meet­ing and court ap­pli­ca­tion although it knew that it would be en­ter­ing trou­bled waters, where they forced Matika to bring and op­pose his ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the act­ing Speaker, Frans Petersen, stated that the pub­lic should re­spect the law and should not hold the mu­nic­i­pal­ity ran­som with their de­mands.

“No mat­ter what hap­pens, mem­bers of the pub­lic can­not cause anar­chy if a per­son is al­lowed to come back.”

Petersen be­lieved that there was no com­pli­ance with the rules and the meet­ing should be set aside as be­ing null and void.

“Coun­cil­lors have a right to at­tend the busi­ness of coun­cil. No no­tice was given for the meet­ing that amounted to noth­ing more than a gath­er­ing of coun­cil­lors. There were se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions of mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions on the ba­sis of five sig­na­to­ries. The act­ing Speaker (Ben Spring­bok) acted within the bound­aries of the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

A group of sup­port­ers wear­ing Matika T-shirts and other ANC re­galia chanted in sup­port of him out­side the court build­ing and also packed the gallery benches.

ANC re­gional sec­re­tary Web­ster Dich­aba ad­vised mem­bers that vot­ing against Matika amounted to vot­ing for the DA.

Picture: So­raya Crowie

SUP­PORT­ERS: ANC Re­gional Sec­re­tary, Web­ster Dich­abe ad­dresses the crowd of ANC sup­port­ers out­side the North­ern Cape High Court yes­ter­day.

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