/ 28 July 2017

EFF rebels face disciplinary hearing

Out of the nine EFF councillors in the Mogale City municipality
Out of the nine EFF councillors in the Mogale City municipality

Mogale City’s newly appointed executive mayor, Patrick Lipuli, has accused the Economic Freedom Fighters of double standards after the party charged its councillors for voting in favour of the ANC’s “pro-poor” budget.

The wrangling over Mogale City’s budget reflects the changes in local government since last year’s municipal elections, which brought stunning defeats for the ANC in key metros.

The Democratic Alliance won the Mogale City election in the west of Johannesburg by a small margin, but failed to obtain an outright majority. Minority parties, the EFF in particular, became kingmakers. The ANC recently gained control after a motion of no confidence succeeded against the DA mayor. Alliances have been shifting, with stalemates and allegations of corruption.

After several failed attempts, the now-ANC-led administration in Mogale City managed to pass its budget earlier this month with the help of EFF and Inkatha Freedom Party councillors.

Out of the nine EFF councillors in the municipality, seven attended the municipality’s special council meeting and six reportedly voted in favour of the ANC budget. They now face disciplinary hearings this week.

The councillors are charged with breaching the EFF’s constitution and bringing the party into disrepute. They are accused of ignoring orders from party officials instructing them not to attend the special council meeting at which the budget was passed.

Three out of the six councillors facing disciplinary action told the Mail & Guardian this week that they voted for the budget because it was “pro-poor” and addressed the immediate needs of the community.

Lipuli accused the EFF of double standards for punishing the councillors who voted to pass the budget. “They [the EFF] take pride in the fact that they are for the poor, but there is clearly a disconnect between what they preach and what they practise …  Those EFF councillors voted for a budget that would benefit the municipality and not the ANC,” he said.

“When I got into office, the first task I had was to amend the DA’s budget, a budget that was rejected by us [the ANC] and the EFF councillors without any input from EFF higher structures because the budget was not made for poor people. But the new budget is, and the EFF councillors agreed and voted for it,” he added.

The municipality has been under pressure to pass its budget since the ANC regained control from the DA after a motion of no confidence in mayor Michael Holenstein in a secret ballot. The ANC’s Lipuli, a former speaker of the municipality, took over the position.

One of the EFF councillors who voted to pass the budget, Eric Baloyi, said they chose to disregard orders from the EFF’s top brass and attend the special council meeting because of pressure from residents.

“There were orders from the EFF’s national structures barring us from attending any council sitting. The problem with this delaying tactic was that the municipality was in real danger of falling under administration and, as a result, there was pressure on us as leaders from our immediate community, and the community had to be put first,” he said.

Baloyi dismissed claims that EFF councillors were bribed to vote in favour of the budget. 

“The decision to attend the meeting was not an act of defiance. When councillors go into office, they vow to serve the community and put aside their political affiliation for the betterment of that community, and that is what happened. The talks of bribery are false,” he said.