The ANC’s urgent application to have motions of no confidence in Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba and speaker Vasco da Gama placed on Wednesday’s council agenda has been struck off the roll by the South Gauteng High Court.
Acting Judge Sydwell Shangisa ruled that the party had failed to demonstrate the urgency of the application, which was heard in court on Tuesday.
Shangisa asked the ANC “what calamity will befall you” should the motions of no confidence not be voted for on Wednesday?
A failure by the ANC’s counsel William Mokhari SC to answer this question was used as evidence by Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Dali Mpofu representing da Gama and Mashaba respectively that the matter was not urgent.
“There is no calamity,” Ngcukaitobi told the court which, for most of the day, had belistemed to Mokhari arguing the merits of the case.
The ANC wanted the court to order da Gama to place motions of no confidence against himself and Mashaba on Wednesday’s agenda as well as order the him to use his discretion to decide whether voting would happen by secret ballot.
Earlier this month the ANC had tabled three matters before council: motions of no confidence against Mashaba and da Gama to be debated on September 27, a request that voting for a new mayor and speaker happen on the same day and that the vote be conducted by secret ballot.
It’s alleged that the council speaker agreed to have the motions debated on Tuesday, but declined the requests for immediate voting for new executives and for voting by secret ballot.
Da Gama told the Mail & Guardian last week that Wednesday’s agenda was too full to conduct an immediate vote for new executives and that he did not have the powers to decide on a secret ballot.
Ngcukaitobi told the court that despite da Gama not being able to grant two of the ANC’s requests, he he had been willing to have the motions debated on Wednesday.
However the ANC denied this and accused da Gama of blocking its efforts to bring forward a motion of no confidence and frustrating its attempts to remove a mayor it accused of being incompetent.
Mokhari argued that the refusal to place the motions on the agenda was a blatant attempt by da Gama to protect his own job, which was on the line.
“He is wrong to think that when he does not agree with a procedural aspect that that can be a legal basis for him not to place the motions on the agenda,” he said.
“To, on his own with a programming committee that has no power, decide that he doesn’t want to put a motion on the agenda is legally inconceivable”.
However Ngcukaitobi said it was the ANC’s own fault that the motions would not be voted on during Wednesday’s sitting as it displayed an all-or-nothing attitude.
He said the ANC had refused to either vote on the motions on Wednesday and vote for a new executives later should Mashaba and da Gama be removed; or to pursue the request for a secret ballot in which case the motions could only be voted on in November.
“They were told about the 29th of November [the next council sitting]. But they refused to accept that because they wanted to have things their own way,” Ngcukaitobi said.
“They are forgetting that things changed with the change of political power [in the city]”.
The ANC said it planned to approach the Constitutional Court on an urgent basis to have its matter heard.