- A Joburg council sitting ended abruptly after a fight broke out between EFF and DA councillors.
- The parties offered differing versions as to how the fighting started.
- The DA opened a criminal case against EFF members for assault and intimidation.
The DA opened charges of intimidation and assault against EFF members after punches flew during a marathon 12-hour Johannesburg council meeting, which ended up being suspended during the pre-dawn hours on Thursday.
The City of Joburg's council speaker, Vasco Da Gama, laid a criminal case against EFF members on Thursday morning at the Hillbrow police station.
The council sitting ended at 01:00 after a 12-hour session.
Da Gama called the meeting - and there were several items on the agenda.
The most contentious item was the condonation of the acting secretary of the council.
The EFF, ANC and smaller opposition parties accused Da Gama of rigging council processes to push a DA-favoured candidate to act as council secretary.
The issue has dragged on for months - and, when the item came up on the agenda on Thursday, it caused chaos.
The DA-led coalition government proposed that Madimetja Molekwa, who currently works in Parliament, acts as council secretary.
But the opposition believes Molekwa's appointment cannot occur while another acting secretary, Andile Gcobinca, is still in the position and earning a salary.
Gcobinca's contract is expected to end in September.
Opposition parties wanted the DA-led caucus to wait until the end of the contract before confirming Molekwa.
When Molekwa's condonation was brought up for debate and voting, after a marathon of 12 hours, the EFF, ANC and smaller parties raised objections.
Rowdy councillors hurled petty insults, while demanding a chance to air their views and be recognised by the council speaker.
"If he speaks, I am going to speak also," several councillors declared through their microphones, while raising objections during the sitting.
Others blew air through the microphones to ensure those who were speaking could not be heard.
On how the commotion and fighting started, the EFF and the DA offered differing versions.
A DA councillor, Leah Knott, told News24 that EFF councillors demanded the removal of the speaker from the podium.
When DA councillors ushered Da Gama out of the council, EFF councillors pounced on anyone around them.
Knott said that, as she tried to document the altercation, an EFF member threatened to take her phone.
Knott said that one DA member, who already had an injured arm, was pushed around by EFF members.
"The seconded secretary has a Master's in management. I do not understand why the opposition does not want to support him. None of their reasons is valid. Instead of allowing the item to be voted on, they decided to disrupt council," Knott said.
"They tried to remove the speaker from his seat. When they failed, the EFF resorted to fighting anyone. A lot of it was very racial and all about whites versus blacks. Our male councillors had to form circles around the female councillors. Besides Councillor Benjamin, who already had an injured arm, she got thrown around quite a bit," Knott said.
An EFF councillor, Sepetlele Raseruthe, the caucus leader, told News24 the party was on the defence.
"We went to the speaker because we wanted the mic, the fighters wanted the mic, and the DA members hit one of us. That is what happened there. Now it was a scuffle because we had to defend ourselves. We were not going to fold our arms while we were under attack," Raseruthe said.
Raseruthe said the EFF believed Molekwa was a fake secretary and had already started acting in the position, despite the council not confirming his appointment.
The ANC blamed the chaos on Da Gama.
The chief whip of the ANC caucus, Eunice Mgcina, said the DA had acted in its own "subjective interest" regarding the appointment of an acting secretary.