'Mud-fight' in the PMB council chambers

2017-01-26 10:17
Council kicks off with 3-hour yelling match.

Council kicks off with 3-hour yelling match. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - Shoes kicked off in anger, a councillor storming out of chambers and a three-hour, no-holds-barred yelling match made up a dramatic first full council meeting for the year.

Msunduzi councillors had strong views while discussing the sale of prime Mountain Rise land to local business Parklane Linen for industrial purposes.

Opposition parties called for ANC PR councillor Mehmood Oumar to leave the room after fingering him as the man behind the Parklane Linen business and application to purchase the land.

They questioned whether Oumar had formally declared his business interests and demanded proof of this.

The meeting took a heated turn when ACDP councillor Rienus Niemand demanded the council be told immediately if Oumar had declared his business interests.

“I want the answer now and not in the next meeting. The danger of leaving it for the next meeting is that it [the declaration] can be manufactured.

“… Councillor [Oumar] refused to leave the meeting until he was warned. I want to go now with whichever official to see Oumar’s declaration. This house needs answers now,” Niemand demanded as the opposition parties clapped and shouted in agreement.

Msunduzi Speaker Jabu Ngubo told Niemand to either withdraw his statement that the document could be “manufactured” or leave the meeting.

Niemand stood firm and chose to leave.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola read the councillors’ code of conduct before asking for Oumar to leave the meeting as he was directly or indirectly linked to the business.

Oumar sat through more than two hours of the lively meeting before he recused himself when another councillor threatened to take the matter further should it be found that he was linked to the business without declaring this to council.

DA councillor Glenn McArthur said it was common knowledge that Oumar “runs and trades” under the name of Parklane Linen and that his business wanted to purchase the residential land to build a linen factory.

Ngubo dismissed McArthur’s comment as “neither here nor there”, calling it “out of order”, but this was greeted with yells of objection from the opposition parties.

Economic Development general manager Dr Ray Ngcobo then revealed that Oumar’s wife’s name was on the documents for the offer to purchase.

He said the application was brought to council by Hajra Bibi Essa — who he said was Oumar’s wife — in 2014 “when Oumar was not even a councillor”.

“There was no role that councillor Oumar played in this,” he said.

The DA did not accept Ngcobo’s comment, saying that it did not matter that Oumar was not a councillor then, for while the matter was being dealt with, “then it matters that he is a councillor now”.

Before he stormed out of the meeting, Niemand said that although he did not want to get involved in “the mud fight”, he advised Ngubo to seek legal advice for her own “protection” before making any further comments regarding the matter.

After Oumar recused himself, the meeting erupted with councillors saying Oumar’s decision to leave meant that he indeed had pecuniary interests in the sale of the land.

They also questioned whether the valuation of the land was correct.

The initial valuation certificate brought to council was for land in Shortts Retreat Road.

But the name of the road was scratched off with a pen and replaced with the details of the Mountain Rise land.

DA councillor Rooksana Ahmed questioned whether the correct, valid valuation certificate was ready to be viewed and if R2 495 000 was the correct value of the land.

“Is that amount valued at a residential selling price or an industrial selling price?

“In previous meetings I asked whether any councillor had any vested interest in the land. We owe it to the ratepayers that we do the right thing…

“Since we haven’t even seen the valuation certificate, we are not even sure if the land is registered on the [valuation] roll,” Ahmed said.

She also asked why the sale was not going through the land disposal committee and was instead being sold by private treaty.

Ngcobo said the correct valuation certificate could be viewed at his office by the end of the day.

The DA told Ngubo to follow up on Oumar’s declaration of business interests.

“This is indeed a most unsavoury first meeting of the new year. A councillor that is directly or indirectly linked cannot be present when discussing an item of a pecuniary nature.

“If in doubt, go out,” said DA councillor Bill Lambert.

When asked to comment on the unravelling of events in council chambers, Oumar declined to comment.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  local government

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