City fights to stop meeting chaos

Fewer budget forums each day will allow for boosted security – Mettler

City Manager Johann Mettler
City Manager Johann Mettler
Image: Herald Photographer

Following continuous disruptions and even violent attacks on councillors at public participation meetings last week, the municipality has revised its schedule to have fewer meetings and added security.

City manager Johann Mettler said the revised schedule for public meetings to discuss the metro’s plans for the upcoming financial year now allows for only two meetings a day as opposed to up to five taking place simultaneously.

This is to ensure there is adequate municipal security deployed to the venues following a spate of disruptions last week.

At least four meetings were disrupted.

They were at the Babs Madlakane Hall and Allanridge Hall in Uitenhage as well as the Motherwell and Colchester meetings.

The Colchester meeting on Thursday became so volatile that the vehicles of councillors and municipal officials were stoned and petrol-bombed while they were prevented from leaving the hall.

Asked about the intelligence networks on the ground and if they had established who was behind the disruptions, Mettler said: “I am not James Bond.

“It is very difficult to speculate because it is not clear why these meetings are disrupted. It really is very difficult to say as a matter of who and what is the reason behind it.

“[Previously] we have received information that there might be disruptions to some of the IDP meetings but we could not cancel those meetings.

“Based on that we are currently rearranging our schedule so that we don’t have more than two meetings so that we can deploy security to those meetings.”

Human settlements portfolio head Nqaba Bhanga said he believed the disruptions were orchestrated by the ANC in the Bay.

“It’s very clear that it is the ANC who is causing these disruptions because everybody who goes there is wearing ANC T-shirts, some leaders who are there are branch leaders of the ANC that we know and ANC youth league leaders.

“The proof is very clear, the photos of ANC people, it’s very clear that it is an organised ANC issue because they have lost the motion of no confidence now they are trying to destabilise,” Bhanga said.

The motion against mayor Athol Trollip was not debated or voted on in council as the last two special council sittings were adjourned when they became chaotic.

Bhanga said the ANC needed to accept that it was not governing the city.

“They are trying to do everything to destabilise and break the city down,” he said.

“We do not need to investigate, we have to look and see black, green and gold in a T-shirt and a doek – the ANC just needs to man up and take decisions,” Bhanga said.

He said the disruptions at the meetings were orchestrated by the same people who were encouraging people to occupy vacant municipal land.

Bhanga claimed the residents were encouraged by both the EFF and the ANC.

Meanwhile, on Friday the Ingquza Hill Local Municipality mayor, Patrick Mdingi, was arrested on contempt of court charges after the municipality failed to provide emergency shelter for residents who had been evicted.

The courts had earlier ruled that the 150 residents from Lusikisiki be given shelter within 72 hours, but the municipality failed to uphold the order.

After a lengthy battle to vary the ruling, the Grahamstown High Court dismissed the application.

Mettler said the judgment did not have any bearing on the Bay municipality.

“It sounds to me as if there were evictions, they were contested and the court said the evictions were unlawful and the municipality was ordered by the court to provide shelter and because the municipality failed the mayor was held responsible.

“If we were in a similar position, we would have to adhere to the court order; it is not a general rule,” Mettler said.

Mettler said the municipality was demolishing structures erected on municipal land rather than evicting residents.

EFF leader Zilindile Vena refuted the claims.

“They can’t attribute the disruptions in the IDP meetings or the issue of evictions to the EFF,” Vena said.

“There has always been a land invasions problem in Nelson Mandela Bay but now Bhanga is realising that they will not be able to identify land for people as per the council decision of January.

“Bhanga knows that they will not be able to reach the deadline we gave them and now they are targeting weak people who can’t defend themselves because they are not employed.

“We have said that if they believe the EFF is behind any of this they can take us to court,” Vena said.

ANC provincial spokesman Gift Ngqondi said: “The ANC has never taken a decision to say the IDP meetings must be disrupted – the meetings are disrupted by people who are unhappy.”

Ngqondi said the DA should consider convening ward-based meetings rather than cluster meetings as the process was not effective.

“We reject the disruptions at meeting, it can’t be right, we can’t support violence and the stoning of people’s cars – that is anarchy,” Ngqondi said.

“The ANC is also not behind land invasions, it is people who are taking land by force because they are frustrated.”