The chief whip of the Tshwane council has lashed out at Gauteng Cogta MEC Lebogang Maile following the suspension of speaker Katlego Mathebe, insisting that he had no right to interject himself in the internal processes of the council.
Chief whip and DA member Christo van den Heever launched a scathing attack on Maile on Thursday afternoon, accusing him of violating the Constitution.
“It is clear that the MEC has overstepped his boundaries by taking punitive disciplinary action against the speaker of council without following the rules of natural justice,” Van den Heever said in a statement.
“He has no right to interject himself in the internal processes of the Tshwane council.
“By doing so, the MEC is in violation of the prescripts of the Constitution, which confers on municipalities the right to govern, on their own initiative, the local government affairs of their communities, while limiting the national and provincial governments from impeding those rights.”
Van den Heever was reacting to Maile’s decision to suspend Mathebe as he held the view that the speaker had breached the council’s code of conduct.
Maile’s rationale behind Mathebe’s six-month suspension without pay follows a special council sitting where she refused to bend to calls by the ANC and EFF to change the order in which motions of no confidence would be heard.
The sitting, which was held earlier this month, was meant to deal with motions against the mayor, speaker, chair of chairs and acting speaker.
According to the sequence of the motions as set out by Mathebe, her motion would have been heard last, allowing her to preside over the other three before recusing herself.
The ANC and EFF, who called for the special sitting, wanted Mathebe’s motion to be heard first.
“Clearly, the speaker’s overall conduct was blatantly motivated to collapse the entire council proceedings to safeguard her self-interest at the expense of the interest of the residents of Tshwane,” Maile said.
Van den Heever accused Maile of openly waging war, on behalf of the ANC.
“If the MEC has concerns, he should utilise the legislated and regulated channels as determined by chapter 3 of the Constitution to engage with the City in a meaningful and co-operative manner.”
The chief whip also refuted comments that Maile had arranged a meeting with him and the council’s multi-party whippery committee following Mathebe’s suspension.
“Let it be noted that no such notice has been received, nor any request to issue such notice to convene a meeting of this nature,” Van den Heever said.
He added that Cogta had no jurisdiction over the multi-party whippery.
“The office of the chief whip has the responsibility of maintaining the discipline of councillors, and asserts that council has not established any special investigative committee to investigate the conduct of the speaker of council, nor has a report [been] served at council, any of its committees, nor the multi-party whippery into any allegations of misconduct on the speaker’s behalf.”
Following Maile’s decision to suspend Mathebe, as well as former Johannesburg DA speaker Vasco da Gama, DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party would be filing an urgent court application for alleged political harassment.
In his sharply-worded statement, Steenhuisen said the DA would not give in to bullying tactics by Maile, adding that their lawyers would review the legal merits of the two councillors’ suspension.
The DA leader, through an attorney, also wrote to Maile, inviting him to retract his “unlawful” decision, “failing which we will apply for personal and punitive costs against Maile”.
Maile said the decision to suspend both councillors was consistent with the law and he was prepared to go to the courts to defend the decision.
He added that the decision was “impartial to avoid any accusation of tilting the balance of forces in councils to favour a particular political party”.
“It is imperative to note that these decisions are based on strengthening local government by ensuring those elected into positions of responsibility carry out their work in the best interest of the electorate,” Maile said.