Clowncil circus drags on
More mayhem as DA tries to prevent new councillor from being ejected from chambers
Tempers flared, insults were hurled and councillors almost came to blows.
These were the scenes that played out in the Nelson Mandela Bay council chambers on Tuesday – the first meeting with the DA seated in the opposition benches since the dramatic ousting of Athol Trollip and his executive a month ago.
Since March, almost every Bay council meeting has been chaotic and marred by walkouts with the then ruling DA-led coalition accusing its ANC, UDM and EFF opponents of being deliberately disruptive.
The shoe was firmly on the other foot at Tuesday’s chaotic meeting, with newly elected mayor Mongameli Bobani later accusing the DA of attempting to make the council “ungovernable”.
The meeting followed a Port Elizabeth High Court judgment on Thursday which ruled that the UDM, AIC, ANC and United Front were the rightful leadership of Nelson Mandela Bay.
In a day of chaos, the DA rallied around its recently sworn-in councillor Lutho Sokudela as the metro’s security officers attempted to eject him from the council chamber.
Sokudela was sworn in as councillor a couple of weeks ago to replace Mbulelo Manyati before the court judgment.
On Tuesday, both of them turned up at the special council meeting, maintaining they were councillors.
As speaker Buyelwa Mafaya referred to Sokudela as “Mr” instead of “councillor”, DA councillors shouted that “he is councillor Sokudela”.
That sparked the row that followed.
City manager Johann Mettler advised that in accordance with the court judgment, Manyati was still a councillor and the matter was being handled by the IEC.
“The court is very clear that on the date of this judgment, in the interim or until there is a resignation or a conclusion to the disciplinary processes, councillor Manyati remains a councillor of the metro,” Mettler said.
“The registrar of the court sent a copy of the judgment to the IEC in order for the IEC to deal with it and they are currently dealing with that matter.
“I was also, in the meantime, advised to withdraw the declaration of the vacancy in light of this court judgment.”
This caused a furore, with the DA adamant that Manyati was no longer a member of its party and thus should not be in the chamber.
Manyati was instrumental in assisting the ANC, UDM, EFF, AIC and United Front in removing the DA-led coalition from power in August.
DA councillor and former chief whip Werner Senekal said: “As far as it concerns the [DA] Mr Manyati is not a member of the DA and therefore not a member of this council.
“He is not part of my seating plan that was sent to me by the secretariat, so it boggles my mind what [he] is doing here.
“He is definitely not elected by the DA so which party is Mr Manyati representing? I would like to know,” Senekal said.
DA councillor Nqaba Bhanga said the party had concluded its disciplinary processes against Manyati.
“The date in question at the court was August 27. Manyati ceased to be a member of the DA on September 4 and we the DA followed all processes.”
Also in the chambers was turncoat DA councillor Trevor Louw, who turned on his party at the September 7 council meeting by pitching up at the sitting along with former ward 37 councillor Neville Higgins while the rest of the DA caucus boycotted the meeting.
While Higgins has since resigned, Louw – the ward 35 councillor – did not and is currently undergoing a disciplinary process handled by the DA’s federal legal commission.
As speaker Buyelwa Mafaya instructed security officers to remove Sokudela, DA councillors jumped to his defence and formed a ring around him.
She threatened to kick Bhanga out of the meeting for being defiant after he implored her to recognise that he had raised a point of order.
A screaming match ensued between councillors of the various parties and between DA councillors and security officials.
The DA councillors used chairs to block the security from reaching Sokudela and others could be seen jumping between benches. The security eventually retreated.
During the chaos, DA councillor Retief Odendaal had approached Mafaya, asking that she call off the municipal security as there would be bloodshed if it continued.
Mafaya regarded this as a threat, saying she would open a case with the police.
The meeting was eventually adjourned by Mafaya until Thursday.
After the meeting, Bhanga explained that Mafaya had misinterpreted Odendaal’s intention when he approached her and asked her to remove the security officials in the chamber because they wanted to harm DA councillors.
“That is the bloodshed he meant.
“The speaker put up armed metro police in chambers to physically hurt us [DA councillors]‚ something that the ANC never experienced when they were in the opposition. It was a genuine appeal by Retief.
“We are dealing with a speaker who is not credible and truthful,” Bhanga said.
At a press briefing after the meeting, mayor Bobani condemned the behaviour of the DA and said the party’s strategy was to make the council ungovernable.
Deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye likened what transpired in council on Tuesday to the October 27 2016 council meeting where ANC councillor Andile Lungisa hit DA councillor Rano Kayser over the head with a glass water jug.
Lungisa has since been convicted of assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm for the attack and is out on bail pending an appeal.
“What we saw today was almost the very same thing that happened in 2016. It was shocking to see seasoned politicians acting in the manner they did,” Buyeye said.
Chief whip Bicks Ndoni of the ANC said: “We urged our councillors not to act and respond. The DA were trying to provoke us.
“They were hellbent on dissolving the council. We’ll have to have strong discussions about this,” Ndoni said.
He raised concerns about the cramped council chambers.
“Let us get a clear assessment of whether we would ever use this chamber for council. Once there’s commotion it becomes problematic,” he said.
Earlier, during the meeting, EFF councillor Zilindile Vena implored the speaker to take control of the meeting.
“The rules give you powers to eject people. Exercise the full powers, don’t just tell us you’re the speaker, we want to see that in action.
“If one doesn’t want to be here they can leave,” Vena said.
Patriotic Alliance councillor Marlon Daniels said the council needed to uphold the court judgment.
“We are of the view that they [DA] have work to do, meaning that they must make sure that necessary correspondence reaches the municipal manager post the September 20 judgment,” Daniels said.
Meanwhile, agenda items meant to the discussed would be carried over to Thursday.
On the agenda was an item to decide on whether or not Mettler should be suspended on allegations of misconduct.
There were also items to elect a new chair of the Rules and Ethics Committee and another item to restructure the standing committees.