The DA in Johannesburg has written to city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni, asking him to call off a special council sitting for Wednesday, arguing that an urgent meeting to elect a new speaker was unlawful because the position was not yet vacant.
The DA and the ANC have been waging a political war, fighting for the two biggest metros in Gauteng, namely Tshwane and Johannesburg.
Mudslinging between the two parties intensified last week as the DA lost Johannesburg to the ANC through a mayoral election, after the position became vacant with Herman Mashaba’s resignation.
The ANC’s Geoff Makhubo donned the mayoral chain last Wednesday after he secured more than the 50%-plus-one majority needed to become the new mayor when 137 councillors cast their ballots in his favour.
The fight has now turned to council, where the DA’s own elected speaker Vasco da Gama was removed through a vote of no confidence last week. The DA, however, claim that the motion failed.
According to the DA, cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Lebogang Maile, instructed the city council to convene urgently to elect a new speaker and also instructed that Lukhwareni should preside over the meeting.
DA caucus leader in the City, Funzela Ngobeni, said the recent action by the ANC was an attempt to flex political muscle by abusing the prescripts of the law.
“This is unlawful, as the position of the speaker is not vacant. Even if it were vacant, neither the MEC, nor the mayor, nor the city manager are legally competent to act,” Ngobeni said.
“Johannesburg council speaker Vasco da Gama of the DA currently occupies this position, as a motion of no confidence the ANC recently brought against him failed.”
Ngobeni told News24 that the DA had written to Lukhwareni, informing him that the convening of the meeting was unlawful and that he should retract his letter announcing the special sitting.
The DA argues that Da Gama is still the speaker, so only he could convene a sitting of council.
Failure to comply with this request by the DA could result in court action, Ngobeni added.
The ANC has rubbished the DA’s stance on the speaker, saying that legal advice on the matter agreed that Da Gama no longer held the position of speaker.
News24 previously reported that, according to the ANC, 135 councillors had voted in favour of the motion to remove Da Gama, while 99 DA councillors had voted against it. The 30 EFF councillors abstained.
“The DA accepted that, in respect of voting in council, majority is dependent on the number of valid votes cast,” said ANC regional secretary Dada Morero.
“This is after they feigned confusion over the meaning of the word ‘majority’ and spending approximately R300,000 of City of Johannesburg’s ratepayers’ money getting a legal opinion on the meaning of the word.”
The spat between political parties spilt over into Tshwane as well, after the removal of mayor Stevens Mokgalapa and council speaker Katlego Mathebe are being contested in court.
Last week, a Tshwane special council meeting saw the successful removal of Mokgalapa and Mathebe, following motions of no confidence.
The legality of the events have been brought into questions after Mathebe recused herself, and EFF Tshwane councillor Obakeng Ramabodu was subsequently elected by the ANC and the EFF.
DA Gauteng leader John Moodey said Ramabodu’s appointment as acting speaker was illegal and that the ANC and EFF had been “aided and abetted by an ANC-deployed Cogta official” in flouting the processes.
“As the DA, we will oppose this illegal appointment in the council, and we will also take this matter to court. We are already busy with our attorneys and the legal process is underway,” Moodey said.
The DA has since gone to court, where an interim order was granted, suspending the outcomes of the council meeting. Arguments will be heard on December 17.
On Monday, ANC Tshwane chairperson Kgosi Maepa maintained that the Municipal Structures Act had been followed to the letter when the mayor and speaker were removed.
He said the ANC would be opposing the court action.