The validity of the meeting has been questioned.
A MEETING described as “an absolute mockery of local government” has seen the appointment of a new acting municipal manager for the Sol Plaatje Municipality.
While the executive director for infrastructure, Boy Dhluwayo, was appointed acting municipal manager at a Sol Plaatje City Council meeting, the validity of the meeting has been questioned.
Kimberley has had an acting municipal manager since the suspension of Goolam Akharwaray, and the chief financial officer, Lydia Mahloko, almost two years ago. Both continue to receive their full salaries, while the salaries of those acting in their positions have also been ramped up to compensate for their additional responsibilities.
ANC chief whip Perdy van Wyk confirmed yesterday that a new acting municipal manager was appointed by the Sol Plaatje City Council with immediate effect, as an official could not act in a position for longer than six months. “The contract of the acting municipal manager expired on April 16.”
He added that Dhluwayo was expected to appoint a new acting chief financial officer (CFO) by today.
Van Wyk pointed out that the letter issued by the MEC for the Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs, Bentley Vass, on April 17, to extend the contracts of the acting municipal manager (MM), Thami Mabija, and the acting CFO, Zahid Cader, for another three months over the lockdown period, was never formally presented to council.
“We do not acknowledge the letter as it was only sent to the mayor. “
He added that the council had convened a special sitting yesterday morning, where councillors sat in their offices or attended via a virtual meeting from home.
“All social distancing was observed and the entire council was invited to attend. We formed a quorum with 46 council members in attendance and three apologies were received.”
He added that only one objection was received from the DA.
“The DA argued that the meeting was not convened according to the regulations, as the acting Speaker, Petrus Mohapi, was appointed by the Speaker and not council.”
The Speaker, Ingrid Koopman, is on bereavement leave.
Van Wyk pointed out that the appointment of Dhluwayo was valid and legitimate as it was stamped and signed by the Speaker.
“The meeting proceeded smoothly without any disruptions,” Van Wyk said.
A different version of the morning’s events, however, was presented by opposition councillors, who pointed out that while some councillors connected from their homes via Microsoft Teams, a number of ANC councillors physically met in the council chambers.
Cope councillor Chris Liebenberg described yesterday’s meeting as “the closest thing to an absolute mockery of local government that I have ever seen”.
“Firstly the sound was terrible and those who connected via Microsoft Teams couldn’t follow what was happening at all,” said Liebenberg.
He stated that at one stage, while he was connected, he could see only 27 councillors who had signed in on Microsoft Teams. “This is despite the fact that the quorum for a meeting should be a minimum of 33.”
He added that he realised that some councillors were, however, physically present in the council chambers.
“I am not sure how many were present but some of them who were in the chambers were also connected on their laptops to Microsoft Teams. I don’t know how the attendance was recorded.”
Liebenberg said further that when it came to the voting to appoint Dhluwayo as the acting MM, there was no way of knowing whether councillors voted on Teams, as well as by a physical show of hands in the chambers, possibly allowing for double votes from individual councillors.
He added further that some councillors who connected via Teams, like himself, never had an opportunity to vote and the decision was taken by those in the council chambers.
Liebenberg stated that as far as Cope was concerned, the decision to appoint Dhluwayo as acting MM was illegal.
“It has been reported that the MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Bentley Vass, has extended the acting contracts of the municipal manager and CFO so the council cannot decide to terminate this appointment and make Dhluwayo the new acting MM.
“For those of us who really care about the municipality, what happened today is not the way to run an institution. It made an absolute fool of everyone who took part.”
He was echoed by Phillip Vorster from the DA, who referred to the meeting as “total chaos and a mess”.
“It was a disaster – firstly it is very obvious that the municipality does not have the bandwidth to run something like Teams. No one could hear anything and people were talking over each other,” Vorster pointed out.
“The next thing I heard was that Dhluwayo was the acting MM – how they voted or counted the votes I have no idea. I never voted and I wouldn’t have supported the motion as I believe that the MEC has already extended the contracts of the acting MM and the acting CFO during the lockdown period.”
According to Vorster, it was obvious that there was a division among the ANC councillors. “Some were also unaware that others had physically gone to the council chambers to attend the meeting.”
He also questioned why some councillors had deliberately ignored the instruction from the president to stay at home and opted instead to physically attend a meeting in the council chambers.
He further questioned whether there was a quorum present to constitute a legal meeting, as well as the procedure in appointing an acting Speaker for the meeting, who, he pointed out, was not appointed by the council, but by the full-time Speaker, Ingrid Kooopman.
“It is obvious that some ANC councillors are taking the law into their own hands and doing what they want to do, when they want to do it. It makes a mockery of everything that the council should stand for.”
It was reported by another councillor that the police were sent in to halt the meeting, as council sittings are prohibited during the lockdown.
“The sitting adjourned before the police arrived,” the councillor said.
The councillor stated that the agenda contained a further motion calling for the implementation of a four percent salary increase for councillors across the board. The matter was not finalised, however, at the conclusion of the meeting.
“It was proposed that once the salary increase came into effect, councillors would donate their portion of the increase to the Solidarity Fund for Covid-19 relief for a period of three months only. This (increase) is not feasible as the municipality does not have funds.”
SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) local chairperson Daily Semau added his voice, stating that he believed that the meeting to appoint a new acting municipal manager was irregular.
“It was an illegal gathering due to the restrictions imposed by the lockdown. The acting officials (Mabija and Cader) were appointed by the MEC of Coghsta in order to bring stability to the municipality,” said Semau.
He also objected to the “devious attempt” to introduce increases when essential municipal workers had yet to receive their danger allowances in terms of the Covid-19 regulations.
“The meeting that we requested with Mabija today was cancelled due to the irregular council meeting.
“There are outstanding matters that need to be discussed relating to how the level four restrictions will be implemented by the municipality. We have yet to be informed how many workers, who will comprise the skeleton staff, are expected to return to work next week.”.
Yesterday’s meeting came in the wake of calls by Sol Plaatje mayoral committee members for a motion of no confidence to be brought against Sol Plaatje executive mayor Patrick Mabilo, after he had requested the MEC for Coghtsa to extend the contracts of the acting MM and acting CFO over the lockdown period.
Mabilo was apparently instructed by the ANC region to rescind the decision to extend their contracts for another three months.
The contracts of the acting officials ended on April 16.
ANC regional members also accused Mabilo of undermining and not consulting with the ANC caucus, ANC chief whip, other political chief whips, the Speaker, mayoral committee or council before this decision was taken and for acting without a mandate.
ANC members called for the removal of the mayor for being “anti-ANC, supreme, malicious and untouchable”.
They insisted that Dhluwayo and Kenneth Samolapo be appointed as acting MM and acting CFO respectively.