Furore over R10m poll plan

Rochelle de Kock dekockr@avusa.co.za
THE Nelson Mandela Bay Ratepayers‘ Association is to seek a High Court interdict against the municipality after a dramatic push by ANC councillors yesterday led to the approval of a controversial bid to spend R10-million on publicising the upcoming local government elections.
This is despite the fact that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it does not need the council‘s money to raise awareness of the elections.
A task team organising the campaign is made up exclusively of ANC councillors and officials – including the mayor, the ANC chief whip, the ANC regional secretary, chief of staff and four ANC councillors.
The recommendation by Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile to provide logistical services, advocacy and publicity to the IEC was voted on yesterday in a dramatic council meeting characterised by aggressive outbursts from both sides of the political divide, righteous indignation, thinly veiled insults, warnings, threats and stalling tactics.
Eventually, the DA councillors walked out in protest, along with the ID, FFP and ACDP councillors, saying the motion was an attempt to “abuse the public purse to further the interests of the ANC”. This left the ANC struggling to form a quorum of 61 councillors. The council‘s full complement is 120.
After they finally assembled 61 councillors, the vote took place without the DA bloc, with only the New Vision Party and the PAC voting against the issue.
The council meeting ended with disheartened ANC members thinking the recommendation had not been approved because only 59 votes had been cast in their favour. But a phone call from the municipality‘s communications department later yesterday afternoon confirmed that, according to the rule book, the recommendation had in fact passed. The ratepayers‘ association will now seek a High Court interdict against the council for passing the money to be spent on an ANC task team to “publicise” the upcoming local government elections. As a last resort, the association threatens to withhold rates in an attempt to prevent the municipality from “wasting ratepayers‘ money”.
“This is really shocking,” the association‘s Kobus Gerber said.
Previously, Wayile requested R17.8- million from the municipality‘s coffers. He has since changed his tune and recommended that between R6-million and R10-million be set aside by the municipality and further funding be sought elsewhere.
Municipal spokesman Roland Williams said if it had been a budget resolution, 61 councillors would have had to vote in favour of the item.
“But for this meeting they needed 61 present to make it a valid meeting; and they would‘ve required only 32 to pass the item.” He said the funds would be taken from budgets where there was “a bit of under-spending”.
While it was unclear how the approved R10-million would be spent, the original R17.8-million was to have been allocated as follows:
ýCampaigns, which refer to voter education and ID co-ordination – R6-million;
ýCommunication paraphernalia such as branding, posters and branded clothing – R3-million;
ýSafety and security for voting stations‘ security and disaster management – R800000;
ýLogistics for transport, catering, voter stations – R5-million; and
ýService delivery challenges and the service delivery launch – R3-million.
Tempers flared in yesterday‘s meeting, characterised by threats, accusations and nitpicking among the ANC and the opposition parties.
ANC councillors were earlier seen counting councillors present and sending text messages for others to attend in order to make a quorum.
The DA accused the mayor of stalling and waiting for more ANC councillors to arrive when he discussed the national Budget speech and political unrest in north Africa.
“What the devil is he talking about? This has got nothing to do with the item before us,” DA councillor Elizabeth Trent shouted out at Wayile. A screaming match between Trent and Speaker Nohle Mohapi ensued, with Mohapi demanding Trent retract her statement. “There is no devil in this room councillor Trent.” Wayile retorted: “It‘s quite disgusting that the boeremag mentality continues to rule the DA. We must caution the DA we want reconciliation but not at all costs.”
DA councillor Gustav Rautenbach asked Wayile if that was a threat, to which he responded: “Take it whichever way you want.”
Wayile said: “What happened last week was painful. The DA called for a caucus, bombarded us and left the meeting unceremoniously. This is political hooliganism and cowardice. The DA are political butchers of yesterday; they cannot be custodians of democracy.
“We have since changed our recommendation. The municipality should put aside between R6-million and R10-million for the item, and the rest should be sourced elsewhere.”
Rautenbach said the municipality‘s budget had been reduced to about R800-million, so there was no money available to fund the election project.
“Where do your priorities lie mayor? Who does not know the metro is experiencing a critical drought crisis and has to deal with a backlog of more than 90000 houses?
“The mayor is quoted as saying we have already trimmed our budget to the bone. Is he now going to cut into the bone to get the R17.8-million?”
Public Services Accountability Monitor spokesman Derrick Luyt described the move as “morally corrupt”.
“I can‘t think of a law that would prevent them from doing something like this, but it doesn‘t mean it‘s not morally unacceptable.”
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