Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Lebogang Maile has suspended former City of Johannesburg council speaker Vasco Da Gama and City of Tshwane council speaker Katlego Mathebe for three and six months, respectively.
They have also been stripped of their positions as councillors for the duration of their suspensions and will not be receiving any pay.
Maile made the announcement during a press briefing on Thursday morning.
The MEC said Da Gama’s suspension came as a result of his role in a number of collapsed Johannesburg council sittings, which led to the DA losing its administrative power in the metro last year. He accused Da Gama of contravening the code of conduct and called him “a constitutional delinquent”.
Da Gama presided over two collapsed council sittings last year, one of which was called by the ANC in October after tabling a motion of no confidence against then mayor Herman Mashaba.
The other sitting, which Da Gama presided over and allegedly ensured the collapse of, was meant to select Mashaba’s replacement in November.
On announcing that he was suspending Da Gama effective from today, Maile said he had afforded the former speaker space to engage with his office, an opportunity that was declined by Da Gama, who, according to Maile, “never responded to his questions”.
Maile said Mathebe’s actions over the past few months, following a joint tabling of motions of no confidence against her and embattled Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa by the ANC and the EFF, were unbecoming of the office she held.
He argued that, instead of playing the role of council speaker, Mathebe was taking sides and trying to ensure that the DA held on to power in the metro by all means possible.
Last week’s council sitting descended into chaos as Mathebe refused to take instructions from the ANC and the EFF on how proceedings should play out, though the parties had forced through the special sitting.
Mathebe also refused to recuse herself and allow the motion against her and the mayor to go ahead without her presiding over the sitting.
She argued that it was her prerogative as the speaker of the house to set the agenda, citing section 29(1) of the Municipal Structures Act.
She then explained that, even though the ANC and the EFF requested the sitting, there was no rule that dictated that the speaker should take instructions from the councillors.
Maile said the actions of the speaker had become unacceptable and his office could no longer sit by and watch while taxpayers’ money was being wasted.
The MEC said he had given Mathebe the opportunity to express her version of events, but she had not given sufficient reasons for her to not be suspended.
“To convene a council sitting requires lots of taxpayer money and yet the speaker worked hard to ensure that proceedings broke down with no regard for the money spent convening the sitting,” said Maile.
He added that his department would work on ways to ensure that money wasted through the collapse of council sittings would be recouped from those responsible for the breakdown in proceedings to deter parties from resorting to unacceptable actions in council.
Having so far failed in its joint effort with the EFF to dethrone the DA in Tshwane, the ANC last week indicated to City Press that it would be leaving it to Maile to flex his muscles and attempt to make inroads in the ANC’s quest to force through motions of no confidence against Mokgalapa and Mathebe.
As such, Mathebe’s suspension for half a year ensures that she will no longer be a stumbling block in the two parties’ efforts to push through the motions.
DA leader John Steenhuisen has condemned Maile’s decision to suspend Da Gama and Mathebe, saying: “The DA will not give in to the bullying tactics of MEC Maile. We have instructed our lawyers to approach the courts on an urgent basis to review this illegal move. We have also written to the MEC to invite him to retract his unlawful decision. Failing which, we will apply for a personal and punitive cost order against Maile.”
Acting Tshwane city manager Augustine Makgata will assume Mathebe’s duties, and Johannesburg city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni will take over the Da Gama’s duties.