Judgment was reserved in the Northern Cape High Court on Monday after the Phokwane mayor, Speaker and acting municipal manager applied for an urgent interdict against 10 councillors to prevent them from removing the acting municipal manager.
JUDGMENT was reserved in the Northern Cape High Court on Monday after the Phokwane mayor, Speaker and acting municipal manager applied for an urgent interdict against 10 councillors to prevent them from removing the acting municipal manager, Busisiwe Mgaguli.
The majority councillors voted in Mpho Mojaki as the acting municipal manager after chaos erupted in council last week, where councillors and members of the public pushed and shoved each other around in chambers.
Nine opposition councillors, from the EFF, DA, FF+, Forum 4 Service Delivery and Phokwane Forum for Service Delivery, and one ANC councillor formed a quorum, where an acting Speaker was appointed for the duration of the council meeting, after ANC councillors had left the chambers on December 13.
Mgaguli was issued with a letter on December 14 where she was informed that her employment had been terminated.
Advocate Percy Ntombeni, representing Phokwane mayor Tebogo Afrika, Speaker Portia Selongilwe and acting municipal manager Mgaguli, stated that Mgaguli was given an unlawful ultimatum to vacate her position.
“They went so far as to put this lawlessness in a letter and they are asking the court to endorse their thuggery and anarchy. The councillors deliberately created a parallel structure to undermine the properly constituted council. Mgaguli was appointed by the mayor in October and her contract only expires on January 14,” said Ntombeni.
“An acting Speaker can only be appointed if the Speaker is absent or unavailable. The councillors never petitioned the Speaker to continue with the meeting that she adjourned after chaos erupted.”
Ntombeni added that neither the acting Speaker, Mosimanegape Michael Sethlogomi, nor the councillors had the authority to hire or fire anyone.
“It is absurd and far-fetched to assume that the Speaker was absent. If she was not available they should have asked the municipal manager, and if she refused they should have approached the MEC for local government. Instead, they went to McDonald’s to continue with the meeting.”
The legal representatives for the majority councillors, advocate Phazha Jimmy Ngandwe, believed that Mgaguli would not suffer any prejudice as she would return to her post as a director at Treasury on January 14, regardless of the outcome of the application.
“Her contract lapses in the next two weeks. This is a political matter cloaked in legal regalia. Let it be resolved as a political issue. The applicants never exhausted all internal remedies before approaching the court,” said Ngandwe.
He pointed out that the majority had formed a quorum during a legally constituted council sitting, where 10 out of a total of 19 councillors had voted in favour of Mojaki.
“The council meeting collapsed after the Speaker failed to record the outcome of the first and second round of votes, where on both occasions the results were the same.
“The Speaker and mayor refused to reconvene the meeting after it was adjourned. The Speaker failed to make herself available and did not have the power to adjourn the meeting in this fashion. The majority of councillors continued with the meeting in order to conclude the business of the day, at a venue that was safe and secure.”
Ngandwe noted that a new administration was elected following the local government elections.
“The new municipal council realised that the acting municipal manager was appointed illegally. They wanted to correct the sins of the previous administration. They never woke up with hatred with the intention of simply removing Mgaguli.”
He stated that Sethlogomi stood in as the ad-hoc Speaker for the duration of the council meeting.
“It is important to protect the democratic processes of council. Voters entrusted the majority councillors to run their affairs and ensure service delivery. The meeting adjourned after the acting municipal manager was voted in, as they did not wish to discuss any other items that were not tabled during the collapsed meeting.”