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Chaos erupts at council meeting

Opposition parties and one ANC councillor formed a majority to vote in a new acting municipal manager at Phokwane Municipality on December 13. Picture: Supplied

Both the ANC and the opposition have denied any involvement in the fracas that unfolded at Phokwane Local Municipality, where the ruling party and opposition benches accused each other of instigating their members to storm into the chambers on December 13.

BOTH the ANC and opposition parties have denied any involvement in the fracas that unfolded at Phokwane Local Municipality, where the ruling party and opposition benches accused each other of instigating their members to storm into the chambers on December 13.

Matters turned sour when the ANC wanted to extend the contract of the acting municipal manager, Busiswe Mgaguli, while opposition councillors called for the immediate termination of her employment.

In court papers, Mgaguli denies knowing the affiliations of the perpetrators, where she later referred to them as “members of the public”.

“It was not clear what motivated the eruption of the chaos that was instigated by a few members and abated by members of the public in attendance. The Speaker attempted to resolve the matter by calming down the warring members and ordered those who posed a threat or who were determined to disrupt the meeting to exit the chambers.

“Despite her best efforts, the Speaker failed to quell the eruption of the disruptive conduct of some members of the public and a handful of councillors who made it unbearable for the meeting to continue seamlessly.”

Opposition councillors agreed, by way of a majority vote, that the corporate services director, Mpho Mojaki, should act as the municipal manager until the vacancy was permanently filled.

“The council is still under administration and a new municipal manager should be appointed along with the new council that was inaugurated. During the council meeting, the Speaker granted a request for a five-minute break for ANC councillors to caucus after it became apparent that there were more votes in favour of Mojaki.”

They indicated that there were 10 votes for Mojaki and nine votes for Mgaguli, where all the opposition councillors and one ANC councillor joined forces.

“The Speaker refused to accept the outcome, whereupon a second vote took place. The outcome was the same during the second round of votes with 10 votes for Mojaki and nine for Mgaguli.”

They added that the Speaker, mayor and other councillors voted against the proposal and refused to record the vote on the record.

“Since the Speaker did not have the power to adjourn the meeting without proper cause, the opposition remained in the council chambers for safety reasons.

“After the meeting reconvened after the adjournment, ANC members stormed into the meeting with the sole intention of disrupting the meeting, whereupon a fight broke out. Opposition councillors were insulted and vulgar language was used.”

They added that the majority of councillors decided to continue with the council meeting in the absence of the ANC.

“The Speaker acted unlawfully in adjourning the meeting before documenting the outcome of the vote.

“We found an alternative venue that was safe and secure and continued with the appointment of the acting municipal manager.

“The meeting was recorded and minutes were taken and opposition parties formed a quorum with 10 councillors in attendance. We agreed that Mojaki should be appointed as the acting municipal manager for the next three months. The meeting adhered to all legislation.”

ANC Frances Baard regional spokesperson Tshepo Louw condemned the unruly behaviour that erupted during the council meeting.

“We have noted with dismay and disappointment following the derailed municipal council meeting of Phokwane Local Municipality. The ANC further condemns the unruly behaviour of the opposition parties, who want to rule council through an extension of its supporters,” said Louw.

He stated that the ANC in the region had called upon the council Speaker, Remaketse Portia Selogilwe, to institute a full investigation into the matter and to give an account to the ANC in this regard.

“Legal action may be instituted depending on the findings of the report. We don’t want any infighting.

“We have advised members who were assaulted during the incident to open criminal charges. Our members are disciplined and would never have stooped so low to disrupt the meeting. We are there to ensure that there is service delivery. We call on our ANC councillors and members to remain calm and focus on rendering municipal services to the people.

“The opposition was trying to dictate to the Speaker how to conduct the meeting and want to remove an official who brought stability to the municipality. They are trying to hijack power by taking it by force. The ANC won the by-election and the local government elections.”

Louw stated that the meeting was convened to appoint senior managers.

“In spite of our political colours, it is in the best interests of council and the community to extend Mgaguli’s contract. She is doing a great job. In the past few months since she was appointed the water problems have vanished and refuse is being collected. We need someone who is objective and independent. We do not recognise Mojaki as the acting municipal manager.”

He indicated that the meeting that continued without ANC councillors was not legitimate.

“The acting municipal manager was appointed after the council meeting was adjourned. Mojaki remains the director of corporate services and Mgaguli is still the acting municipal manager, until the full council has reconvened to deliberate and issue a directive regarding the new municipal manager.”

ANC provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga stated that the “pandemonium” that broke out at Phokwane Municipality was “a coup staged to circumvent the will of the people and take power from the ANC through undemocratic means”.

“The ANC will not be a spectator and will explore legal avenues to protect the will of the people and restore order.”

He added that it was “worrisome” that one of their ANC councillors had assisted the opposition in “creating instability” at the municipality.

“Provincial officials counselled this councillor a week or so ago and cautioned him against voting with the opposition in a way that undermines the aims and objectives of the ANC,” said Ngxanga.

“In spite of our best efforts to bring stability to the municipality, the said councillor continued unabated to work with the opposition in a manner that seeks to dislodge the ANC from power in the municipality. The ANC will rely on its internal disciplinary instruments to bring the councillor to book. The time for impunity has long passed. There will be consequences for ill-discipline.”

Ngxanga encouraged the mayor and Speaker to lay criminal charges against the councillor who purported to be the acting Speaker.

“He fraudulently used the stationery of the municipality. Irrespective of the circumstances, all political parties must respect the outcome of the democratic elections.”

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