Walkout collapses council meeting
Third sitting ends in stalemate as spat over fitness of speaker sees opposition members threaten court action
YET another City of Tshwane council sitting collapsed yesterday after councillors from both the EFF and ANC walked out of the House.
The highest decision-making body in the capital has not been able to perform its duties for the last three meetings.
The latest episode yesterday followed a nasty start during which the opposition parties did not mince their words about their disdain for speaker Katlego Mathebe, saying that she was not fit to be the presiding officer of the council.
In the latest meeting, the two parties were vying for the resolution that was taken to appoint Zweli Khumalo as acting speaker to be rescinded. This would disqualify him from presiding over a meeting to decide Mathebe’s fate.
The speaker, however, rejected the request and said she would not be derailed by the two parties as they differed on interpretations of the law in the matter.
Following heated debate, the opposition parties decided to walk out of the council chamber, stating that they would be seeking answers from the courts on the issue.
However, that was not before saying that they were dissatisfied with her handling of, and ruling on the issue. They chanted “Mathebe must go”.
Former DA councillor and chairperson of the Tshwane Money Matters Caucus, Lex Middelberg, told the Pretoria News that the constant collapsing of meetings would have catastrophic effects on the metro as there were time-sensitive issues that had to be tabled. He said the adjustment budget was coming up and he did not see how it could be approved or even go to public participation while the council was dysfunctional.
“I doubt they will even have the budget go through all the necessary steps and have it ready come July… and if they don’t, the City must go under automatic administration.”
Middelberg said even more worrying was that residents would be the ones to suffer.
“The speaker overplayed her hand, and this is a blatant abuse of the chair and a bridge too far.
“The strategy is obvious. The removal of the speaker is key in this fight… they (EFF and ANC) know that if they bring motions to the speaker, using her own prerogative she can reject them on technicalities. When the cross-hairs turn to her, she can delegate her sidekick who will reject it, and they go.”
He said it was clear the parties wanted to cancel the position, which was not legislated; get rid of the acting speaker; and, elect a speaker and set the motions in place.
Political analyst Levy Ndou said the collapse of yesterday’s meeting would give local government MEC Lebogang Maile the ammunition and reason to implement his decision to suspend her.
He said the implications were bad for residents as recent developments in the metro were contrary to their interests.
DA provincial leader John Moodey said the party was angered by the chaos that took place in council, preventing it from conducting its business.
“It is ultimately the residents of Pretoria who will suffer because of these disruptions that are aimed at stopping service delivery at the expense of residents,” said Moodey.
Maile meanwhile said: “We are concerned about the collapse of today’s council sitting. Order needs to be restored and councillors must act in a manner that puts the interests of residents first.”
He said the province would seek a report from the speaker and whips on the underlying reasons that led to the collapse of the sitting.
“There should be serious consequences for anyone responsible,” he said.
Maile said: “A strong message needs to be sent out to all municipal councils and councillors around the province that the days of arbitrarily collapsing council sittings in furtherance of parochial partisan political interests, at the expense of service delivery, are well and truly over. ”