The meeting prevented members of the public and the media from listening to the proceedings
YESTERDAY’S Sol Plaatje City Council meeting disintegrated into chaos, with allegations of racism amidst questions being raised about a Hawks investigation at the executive mayor’s and Speaker’s offices.
The meeting, where the public gallery was once again locked, preventing members of the public and the media from listening to the proceedings, started off on a rocky footing after EFF councillors stated that they had done an oversight visit to the various resorts run by the municipality.
ANC councillor Ronnie Morwe stated, on a point of order, that councillors were not entitled to conduct oversight visits as a political party but had to do so as Sol Plaatje councillors and the EFF members were prevented from presenting their findings.
This followed a report on the state of the resorts, where it was pointed out that among the challenges faced was the lack of sufficient resources and manpower, along with ill-disciplined and non-productive personnel coupled with theft and vandalism of municipal property.
The chairperson of the DA caucus, Reinette Liebenberg, stated after the meeting, which the DA stormed out of to the cheers of ANC councillors, was that one of the biggest issues was the inability of the Speaker, Elizabeth Johnson, to control council proceedings.
Liebenberg further accused Johnson of not abiding by the rules of the council.
“There are several occasions where she does not allow any discussion on items. A batch of items are presented together, and then seconded. She allows discussion up to a point and then arbitrarily prevents any further discussion on the basis that the item has been seconded.”
During the discussion on a confidential item, which is believed to be related to a retrenchment package of more than R1 million for an official after the executive mayor, Mangaliso Matika, appointed his own personnel member in the same post, the DA’s Miriam Louw was accused by ANC member, Marina Meintjies, of “using the K-word”.
The mayor, specifically addressing another DA councillor, also stated during the meeting that he was not responsible for white genocide under apartheid.
With emotions already spilling over and tempers rising, a list of questions, included in the agenda, by DA councillor Phillip Vorster proved to be the last straw.
Vorster sent a written request to the Speaker for answers relating to the Hawks investigations at the Office of the Mayor and Speaker on March 28 last year.
He also asked what had happened to the “criminal assault case against the mayor”, citing the case number, who had granted permission for the renting of accommodation on behalf of the mayor and to purchase furniture for his house, as well as whether an outstanding amount of R135 000 for the rental of Rekaofela Pleasure Resort for a meeting of the ANC Regional Executive Committee had been paid.
Johnson claimed that she was unaware of the questions, stating that when she signed off the documents for yesterday’s meeting (which was originally scheduled to take place a week ago) the questions had not been part of the documentation.
The DA’s Shane Griqua questioned why she had allowed the documentation to be distributed if this was in fact the case and accused her of suffering from amnesia and blame shifting.
The already vocal meeting then collapsed into total chaos with everyone shouting and ANC councillors demanding that Griqua’s comments be withdrawn.
Liebenberg pointed out after the meeting that the questions had been submitted by Vorster within the legal time frame and a reply had been handed out to all councillors.
“There was no signature on the reply so we are uncertain whether it came from the mayor or the Speaker’s office. The so-called reply, however, also does not address the questions raised.”
Liebenberg added that at this point, the DA walked out of the meeting.
“Our point was that if the Speaker claims that she had not signed off on the questions, which were part of the agenda, the entire document is then invalid. The DA is also not prepared to tolerate personal abuse regarding racism in the council chambers.
“Items are being bulldozed through without councillors being provided with an opportunity to debate issues. We also have an issue about the public and media being locked out of the meeting as this is supposed to be an open meeting, as prescribed by law.”
The mayor’s office yesterday referred media enquiries to the Office of the Speaker, who could not be contacted. The Speaker, herself, could also not be contacted.