Preparations are under way for the embattled City of Tshwane to elect a new mayor and city manager over the weekend.
This while another tussle between political parties intensifies and most councillors remain in the dark.
Last month, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria overturned a decision by the provincial government to dissolve the capital city’s council.
The court found the move to be unlawful, with Gauteng Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile being chastised for his poor handling of the matter.
A team of administrators, led by Mpho Nawa, was given five days to fix it after level 4 of the lockdown regulations came into effect.
Speaker Katleho Mathebe said the council meeting had to go ahead over the weekend in order to ensure a smooth transition.
She said chief whips of numerous parties had agreed this was best to avoid a “gap” in the leadership of the troubled municipality, which has seen the removal of two mayors since the DA took over following the 2016 local government elections.
But Mathebe could not disclose details of how this would happen amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying while it would adhere to regulations currently in place, she could not share details as councillors did not know of the council’s plans as yet.
“As much as we are ready, I don’t want to offend the councillors before this is communicated to them first,” she said, refusing to discuss plans in the media.
Earlier during a DA Tshwane town hall meeting, the party’s federal council chairperson, Helen Zille, and its mayoral candidate, Randall Williams, said different ways of ensuring voting took place were being explored.
“We are looking at different routes we can go, the electronic voting route or contact meeting,” said Williams.
He added there was a likelihood four or five different venues, which link to each other electronically, could be used.
Zille said councillors could still vote at the Tshwane House building where the council usually sits, with voting happening in different rooms to adhere to regulations.
Returning to council, real chance to serve
Meanwhile, signs of old rivalries between different political parties remain as the ANC in Tshwane has questioned the DA’s decision to go ahead with the election of a mayor.
ANC caucus leader Kgosi Maepa said he had not “even” received an email regarding the voting of a new mayor over the weekend.
“I heard that the DA wants to do that but because I know the country has regulations, I would much rather respect those than the DA.”
Maepa questioned why the DA insisted on holding elections while more than 200 other councils were observing lockdown regulations intended to help slow down the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“What makes them so special?”
But Williams insists all parties were informed of this during a meeting of the whips last week.
He said the resumption of the council was an opportunity for councillors to perform their roles better as the lack of salary over the past few weeks had exposed them to what many in the city faced every day.
“I am glad councillors for the last six weeks have not received any income. They were complaining that they could not pay rent, they couldn’t provide for families and didn’t know where their next plate of food is coming from.
“Coming back gives them an opportunity to make a difference and provide for citizens who are vulnerable.”
Williams said national leaderships across the party spectrum had to step in and help change the often-chaotic council sittings around.
“We believe national leaderships have seen how destructive the behaviour was and adversely affected service delivery in the City of Tshwane, and no one comes out of this looking good.”