Cape Town – The embattled ANC-led Oudtshoorn town council is heading to court yet again, after a fifth attempt by the DA to regain control of the municipality was crushed on Friday.
In a council meeting marred by mudslinging, name-calling, angry outbursts and even allegations of known gangs being used in to use strong-arm intimidation tactics against DA councillors, all under the watchful eyes of the local police, the opposition in the town was dealt yet another blow when speaker John Stoffels announced that he was appealing against an earlier Western Cape High Court ruling which declared illegal his actions to suspend the voting rights of two DA councillors.
More than a week ago, Judge Ashton Schippers dismissed Local Government MEC Anton Bredell’s request to exclude Stoffels, the Oudtshoorn speaker, from chairing a council meeting, which would see the ANC lose power to the DA.
Judge Schippers simultaneously ruled that the speaker’s actions at a previous “special” council meeting, at which he took away the voting rights of two DA councillors, were unlawful and mala fide (in bad faith).
But the judgment effectively paved the way for the majority DA/Cope councillors to call another council meeting and submit a motion of no confidence in the mayor, deputy mayor and the speaker. And while the meeting went ahead on Friday, it did not have the outcome the DA anticipated.
In what could best be described as a case of déjà vu, the speaker recorded the votes as 12 ANC/Icosa/NPP opposing the motions, and despite 13 DA/Cope members voting in favour, the speaker deducted the votes of the two DA councillors he barred from voting.
Thus the motion, according to the speaker, was carried,12 ANC coalition votes against 11 DA votes.
Stoffels then adjourned the meeting but the majority DA/Cope members continued on their own.
DA spokesman Chris McPherson at that stage was chairing the meeting. He said ANC councillors tried in vain to disrupt the proceedings with their heckling, chanting and jeers.
McPherson claimed he was then manhandled and forcefully removed by municipal law enforcement officials who he claims were trying to stop the DA/Cope majority from meeting. He said he opened an assault case at the local police station the same day.
“It’s been months now that the DA coalition has had a majority and the ANC coalition refuses to allow the majority to govern.”
McPherson said the situation in the town was so volatile that one DA councillors had been attacked by a knife-wielding suspect earlier in the morning before Friday’s meeting.
“DA councillors in the town fear for their safety. This thing is getting out of hand. Their actions are a slap in the face of democracy,” McPherson added.
Municipal manager Ron Lottering confirmed that the ANC’s counter motion to reject the three DA motions of no confidence had been carried.
The council resolution would reflect and confirm this fact, he added, and a formal statement would be released later today.
A fed-up Bredell said he was disappointed that democracy had not been allowed to run its course in the Klein Karoo town.
The parties will be back before Judge Schippers on Wednesday to argue the speaker’s leave to appeal against the earlier high court ruling.