Blow for Plettenberg Bay councillor as court upholds suspension
“It is still a witch-hunt.”
These are the words of Bitou municipality kingmaker Peter Lobese, the lone Active United Front (AUF) councillor in Bitou, after a court upheld his suspension on Friday.
The Western Cape High Court reversed a June 10 decision by Western Cape local government MEC Anton Bredell to nullify the council decision to suspend Lobese.
He has been suspended without pay and has been instructed to return municipal property.
And with the municipal elections on November 1, Lobese will likely not draw a salary again unless he can convince the court to reverse his suspension.
He was suspended in connection with alleged maladministration, which included allegedly abusing grant funding and hiring bodyguards at R120,000 a month for nine months when he was mayor.
He was suspended in June minutes before a scheduled vote for mayor, leading to a stalemate as the ANC and DA with six seats each voted along party lines.
The Plettenberg Bay local authority has failed to elect a new speaker after Lobese was ousted through a vote of no-confidence in April.
Friday’s court order said that it was an agreement between Bredell, , co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the Bitou municipality.
Acting judge Nolundi Nyati said: “The first respondent’s [Bredell’s] decision of 10 June 2021 to refuse the first applicant’s [Bitou’s] request to suspend the second respondent [Lobese] as a councillor of the Bitou municipality council is reviewed and set aside.
“The MEC’s decision is substituted with a decision suspending the second respondent as councillor of the Bitou municipality council with immediate effect.”
Meanwhile, a seemingly defeated Lobese said he was disappointed by the order.
“The merits of the case were not presented to the judge, they just sat and agreed.
“Unfortunately, I did not have money for senior counsel to represent me there and put my story.
“What I know [is that] they want me to be cut off from the council for the next 10 years.
“They don’t want me to be a councillor, they don’t want my party to be there.
“The aim is just to destroy my political career,” Lobese said.
“In terms of allegations of corruption, I know I am clean on that.”
In a letter to Bredell, Dlamini-Zuma and council speaker Euan Wildeman, dated September 13, DA caucus leader Bill Nel said the same speed to discipline Lobese should be used in similar cases involving ANC councillors and officials’ cases.
“We cannot otherwise but note that this appears, at this stage, to be a serious miscarriage of justice and a selective use of legal process to further political objectives.
“As an abiding party, we do not wish to defend councillor Lobese in court but we do support the audi alteram partem [listen to the other side] rule fully.
“Equally, we believe that all implicated parties must be treated equally before the law.
“In this regard, the Bitou speaker himself is a party mentioned in the very same Section 106 process.”
Nel pointed to allegations of bribery by the Hammond and Hammond Transactional Law Clinic, which alleged that acting mayor Sandiso Gcabayi, ANC councillor Mpakamisi Mbali, municipal manager Lonwabo Ngoqo and community services director Thozamile Sompani were also implicated in the scandal, which formed the basis for Lobese’s suspension.
The four previously denied any wrongdoing.
Gcabayi said: “This means that he will be prohibited from taking part in any council-related activity up until the court is satisfied on good cause shown that his disqualification is no longer warranted.
“Lobese will no longer be entitled to a salary and must immediately return all the municipal assets in his possession.”
Asked about the allegations of Hammond and Hammond, Wildeman said: “The Hammond and Hammond case is allegations, but we are going through the same process that we went through with Lobese.”
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