An Ixopo councillor – who was fired for supporting the ANC’s new leader by wearing a CR17 T-shirt prior to the party’s national conference – has been reinstated.
Nicholas Mdunge successfully brought an urgent application to the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday seeking interim relief.
The ANC-led Ubuhlebezwe Municipality, as well as its speaker and municipal manager, have until January 31 to provide reasons why the order should not be made final.
Mdunge’s advocate, Smanga Sethene, told Judge M. Chetty that his client’s conduct has been vindicated by Ramaphosa’s victory. He was “one of the key drafters of the Constitution” of South Africa and Mdunge has rights to campaign for a political cause.
Sethene said Mdunge had been an ANC member but left prior to last year’s local government elections. He then contested the elections as an independent candidate and won in his ward.
On November 16, a council meeting was held and Mdunge was asked not to attend. Then on December 7, he was given a letter of dismissal because he was campaigning for Ramaphosa to be elected. He even posted on Facebook, “ Cyril Ramaphosa is my incoming President”.
Sethene added that the speaker has no powers to dismiss a councillor, only the local government MEC does.
“He (Mdunge) is not a member of a political party. Their case (the opposition’s) is that his dress indicated he became a member of a party.”
Sethene said that council made its conclusion from what was seen on WhatsApp messages and his client’s Facebook page.
The advocate added that according to the ANC’s constitution, one has to apply to become a member, be accepted and then pay membership fees. His client had done none of these things.
He added that Mdunge’s conduct was not even investigated by the council or an established special committee.
“It’s like we are living in the old days where there are no rights,” he commented.
Sethene added the matter is urgent because Mdunge, a father who supports three children, has been left without a salary. Advocate Narisha Bhagwandeen, for the municipality, had a tough time trying to convince the judge to favour her clients.
Chetty said: “Had he (Mdunge) donned the colours of another candidate, what would have happened? Is it the association with the candidate or the ANC that is the problem…so you are prescribing to him how to dress. Where is the dress code for councillors?”
She replied that she did not know of any and that Mdunge had affiliated himself with a political party when he was an independent candidate.
“His conduct and participating is what was relied upon. I am not aware if he officially became a member. All we can rely on is in his conduct….if it walks like a duck, it should be a duck,” said Bhagwandeen.