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Judge questions ANC’s power in Tlokwe

Judgment for the application to nullify the council meeting that ended expelled Tlokwe municipality executive mayor Maphetle Maphetle was postponed in the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday.

Judge Neil Tuchten said: “I need to take my time to consider this matter but I will insist that no lawyers from either party are to be paid using state funds.”

The ANC remains confident it will get the meeting nullified and Maphetla will be reinstated. According to ANC spokesperson for the North West Kenny Morolong, the ANC is still the authority in Tlokwe.

“No government can express authority unless such has been expressed by the majority of the citizens. We still have the full backing of the people of Tlokwe,” said Morolong.

However, Tuchten scrutinised the application to have the meeting and its resolutions nullified, questioning whether or not the resolutions were an indication that the majority is now DA, technicalities put aside.

On July 2 2013, 48 Tlokwe councillors sat for a meeting that had been reportedly cancelled by the speaker of the municipality. The DA argued that not all constituencies were notified of the cancellation and since the quorum was reached, the meeting should be classified as valid.

Mayor for the second time
Twenty-six ANC councillors, including others from the opposition parties, showed a vote of no-confidence on Maphetle and subsequently voted DA councillor Annette Combrink as mayor for the second time. In a council meeting held in November 2012, the same councillors made the same decision.

A week later the North West ANC's provincial disciplinary committee expelled 14 of its councillors who voted to unseat Maphetle, and they were also removed as Tlokwe councillors. The ANC said it expelled them because they handed power to an opposition party. Six new proportional representation councillors for the municipality have since been appointed.

The core of the ANC’s application was to explain why the meeting of July 2 must not be recognised, alongside Combrink’s new title as mayor of Tlokwe. The judge said the intention of the speaker cancelling the meeting, supposedly to accommodate a "non-urgent disciplinary hearing", is highly questionable.

“It would seem that as neutral as a speaker is supposed to be, this one advanced ANC interests over the interests of the municipality.” He added he found it bizarre to have a speaker that has the authority to call and cancel important meetings at will.

He further questioned the ANC counsel Wim Scholtz on whether the ANC could not wait for the by-elections scheduled for August and September to restore the power they are so convinced they have in Tlokwe. Scholtz responded that the original Tlokwe mayor should stay until the elections because change "costs money". Tuchten disputed this argument as invalid.

Scholtz added that anything could happen in the months before the elections. "The executive mayor has extensive power. That [time] would be an invitation for the party to abuse the system," he said.

Tuchten was very quick to interject that "it is clear that the ANC is not sure of its power otherwise you would not be here to settle what is obviously a political and a democratic issue. Why should I be asked to put a minority back into power?"

He further asked the ANC counsel to consider letting the essence of democracy decide on the matter. He acknowledged the DA’s plea to have the municipality back to its functional state, as it is currently paralysed and invaded by squatters.

Maphetle and his mayoral committee have not left office since he was ousted in November last year. Speaking after the case was heard, Combrink said she has not been to office to claim her position because she is not confrontational but rather democratic.

“As the judge has mentioned, we followed a democratic process and it did not work for the ANC. Against our wishes we are now battling it out in court instead of finding a political solution,” she stated.

Before the court adjourned, Tuchten added that his consideration is on whether or not Maphetle was unlawfully removed or not.

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Khuthala Nandipha
Khuthala Nandipha is a journalist for the Mail & Guardian. This involves writing about various social issues that develop and change on an hourly basis. Her interests are, in a nutshell, how South Africa and the world’s revolution affect the person on the street: “the forgotten voting citizens”, as she calls them. She loves writing, and taking photos as a way to complement her stories. She grew up on the south-east coast of East London in the Eastern Cape. She studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She is not new to Jo’burg, having spent the first eight years of her journalism career working for various newspapers and magazines there.

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