There was no admissible evidence before court about corruption, a toxic environment and racial division within the DA in Tshwane as grounds to allow a secret ballot in the ANC’s motion of no confidence in executive mayor Solly Msimanga, the DA argued in the High Court in Pretoria today.
The DA, speaker, mayor and the city vehemently opposed an urgent application by the ANC in Tshwane to set aside September’s council sitting at which the ANC’s motion to have Msimanga removed was defeated after Speaker Katlego Mathebe ruled the voting must take place by an open show of hands.
The ANC maintained the meeting should never have been allowed to go ahead as it started 20 minutes late and Mathebe had ignored the alleged toxic atmosphere of fear, intimidation and racial division when she refused to allow a secret ballot.
Counsel for the DA Nick Ferreira submitted that the speaker, as chairperson of the municipal council, exercised executive and legislative powers, but the ANC was asking the court to take over her powers.
He said the ANC had put no credible evidence before court to support its allegations about a R12 billion tender fraud, a so-called shadow cabinet where each black DA councillor had a white counterpart or even the allegation that municipal manager Moeketsi Masola had been assaulted by a DA councillor, creating an atmosphere of fear.
The ANC relied on a letter by Masola, but the DA and the council denied the allegations, and it was puzzling that there was no confirmatory affidavit by Masola to confirm his allegations.
“This is not evidence. It’s hearsay and it’s improperly before court … The so-called assault took place in March, six months before the council meeting, and there’s no proof of why it would have caused an atmosphere of fear,” he added.
The allegations form part of an ongoing fiercely fought Labour Court battle instituted by Masola.
Ferreira said one often saw such allegations in the political environment of this type of litigation and one should treat them with a pinch of salt, especially where the ANC sought no relief in that regard.
“If there was an unlawfully awarded tender they can approach the court to set it aside or lay criminal charges,” he said.
Hamilton Maenetje, for the speaker, argued that the application was not urgent as the ANC could table another motion of no confidence next month, which was exactly what it wanted.
Judge Thina Siwenda reserved judgment.
The ANC’s leader in Tshwane Kgosi Maepa, pictured with his deputy Aaron Maluleka, said they were confident that they had already won their application, even though judgment still had to be delivered. There would be a secret ballot because of the toxicity in the council, he said. He added it was clear that the speaker had become the DA speaker and was not the council speaker, who was supposed to be independent.
He said the EFF had also brought a motion of no confidence because there was genuinely no confidence in the mayor, especially in light of the Auditor-General’s findings that the R12 billion tender awarded to GladAfrica was irregular and unlawful.
The speaker’s response
Tshwane speaker Katlego Mathebe said she was glad the matter was before court as it would assist the council as politicians to interpret the rules and the law correctly. She said her duty as speaker was to make sure that all council members interpreted and applied the rules and orders correctly – so there could be no winner or loser in the case.
The mayor’s response
Tshwane mayoral spokesperson Sam Mgobozi said they believed they would be successful because they regarded the ANC’s application as frivolous. He said it was immaterial if the court cases, motions and allegations were damaging to the mayor.
“The fact of the matter is we promised change. We never said it would be easy or clean. This part of the work we’re doing … to ensure that we remain the party in council that is best placed to provide services to the residents.
“The ANC was upset about not remaining in power … and that sentiment is transferred to them losing their motion of no confidence. This is just their way of trying to regain some relevance and trying to save face. Nevertheless, we respect the constitutional and judicial processes and look forward to get some legal determination about the validity of the meeting that was constituted by the speaker,” he added.