The first council sitting of the uMngeni Municipality descended into chaos on Friday as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) staged a walkout over the presence of suspended Municipal Manager Thembeka Cibane.
The councillors refused to participate in the meeting as it would be illegal. Cibane reportedly wanted to preside over the meeting.
“The reason why we could not agree to the meeting continuing was because of the presence of the suspended Municipal Manager, Ms Cibane. The suspension clause number seven says that she cannot be on the municipal premises… which means that her presence here makes this meeting illegal,” Pappas told reporters outside the Howick West Community Hall.
“We would not, as the Democratic Alliance, agree to a meeting continuing that is illegal. The ANC was quite happy to do that, we know that they are used to doing things illegally, but as the DA we could not agree to that,” he added.
Cibane reportedly claimed her suspension had lapsed.
DA leader John Steenhuisen was critical of the ANC members at the council meeting. He even labelled them a “criminal syndicate” in a Twitter post.
“The criminal syndicate is trying to silence the will of the people of uMngeni Municipality. We will not allow this to happen, residents have decided and a new government will be sworn to serve the residents of uMngeni and get things done,” Steenhuisen tweeted.
After the walkout, the DA went to the Howick Magistrate’s Court to have their councillors sworn in.
The DA said this would allow the councillors to call a new council meeting.
Speaking outside the magistrate’s court, Steenhuisen accused the ANC of trying to roll back the democratic outcome of a legitimate electoral process.
“Trying to turn back the tide of what has happened in uMngeni is futile. They may have tried to thwart us this morning, but the rule of law has prevailed,” he said.
uMngeni is the first municipality to be run by the DA in KwaZulu-Natal, after the party secured 47% of votes during last week’s local government elections.