Judge asks ANC: Why can’t Tlokwe await the democratic process?

2013-07-23 16:35

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Judgment in an application to nullify a council meeting that unseated Tlokwe mayor Maphetle Maphetle has been reserved in the high court in Pretoria.

“I need to take time to consider this matter,” Judge Neil Tuchten said today.

No date was given for when judgment would be handed down.

The court heard today that the speaker of the Tlokwe municipality served the needs of the ANC over the needs of the people by calling for a council meeting to be postponed.

“She cannot call herself the gatekeeper of council matters and at the same time say she is partisan,” said Marius Ackermann, for the opposition in the council.

He said speaker Barei Segotso had postponed the meeting on July 2 because she and ANC councillors were attending a provincial party disciplinary hearing.

On July 2, Democratic Alliance councillor Annette Combrink was voted in as the new mayor for the second time since November, unseating Maphetle.

The next day, the ANC’s North West provincial disciplinary committee expelled 14 of its councillors. They were also removed as Tlokwe councillors.

The ANC was trying to have the meeting at which Combrink was voted in as mayor nullified.

The ANC said it did not recognise Combrink as mayor, and that Maphetle still held the post.

On July 10, the ANC served court papers on 48 Tlokwe municipal councillors – 26 of them ANC councillors, 19 DA, two Freedom Front Plus, and one from the Congress of the People.

Ackermann said the meeting was legitimate and the majority of councillors had voted Combrink in.

Even if the other ANC councillors were present at the meeting, they would still not have comprised a majority.

He said the motion of no confidence in Maphetle was on the agenda for that meeting for some time.

“I find it odd for a provincial disciplinary meeting to be held at one day’s notice,” Ackermann said.

He said the opposition brought a counter application to have Maphetle vacate his office.

“The majority has spoken... (and) democracy has spoken.”

Tuchten said earlier that since the ANC had stated it was the majority party in the Tlokwe municipality, the question was whether the effects of the council meeting could not be put right by “democratic means”.

Wim Scholtz, for the speaker and mayor of the Tlokwe council, said there was a three-month moratorium on rescinding council decisions.

Tuchten asked why the ANC could not merely wait for the three months to end.

“Why can’t this await the democratic process of three months? Why should I be asked to put back what has now become a minority party (the ANC) based on a technicality?” he asked.

“What terrible things are going to happen in three months? Why can’t the ANC reap its allegedly just reward for its democratic majority in ... in fact, now, two months’ time?”

Scholtz said anything could happen in the three months.

“The executive mayor has extensive power. (The time) would be an invitation for the party to abuse the system,” he said.

Tuchten said time was an issue because the ANC was unsure about its majority in Tlokwe.

Scholtz said the opposition in the council had acted against the rules by allowing the council meeting at which Combrink was voted in as mayor.

He said the council speaker had previously cancelled the meeting, and had the right to do so without consulting the councillors or informing the public.

However, after the court was adjourned for lunch, Scholtz said the speaker clearly mentioned in an SMS to councillors that the meeting had been postponed.

Tuchten asked why the speaker had previously implied that the meeting was cancelled.

“This was to avoid the connotation of an adjournment,” Scholtz said.

Tuchten said the opposition was allowed to be opportunistic “within broad limits”.

“That is their job. They must embarrass the government. They must hold it up to stringent criticism. Where possible, they must exploit divisions in government and show the voters that government is not this monolith.”

Such situations kept the ruling party “on its toes” and improved democracy, the judge said.

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