Ten armed police officers removed two councillors from the Makana Council Chamber today following a heated exchange between members of the DA caucus and the Speaker. Other councillors threw themselves into the fray in an hour of chaos that left the sole EFF councillor shaken after an ANC councillor was restrained from physically confronting her, and saw the DA caucus stage a walk-out for the second time in eight days.
Today’s special council meeting was the adjournment of the one scheduled for Monday 29 October. A DA walkout forced the adjournment of that meeting when only 13 of the 27 councillors (less than the requisite 50% plus one).
The walkout last week was the exclusion from the Council agenda of a motion of question regarding Sun City – an informal settlement built on a disused dumpsite with shocking living conditions. At that meeting, Councillor Mlindi Nhanha said he’d submitted the motion to the municipal manager on 20 September 2018. The Speaker’s failure to entertain discussion on the issue infuriated the caucus and they stood up and walked out.
This time, Speaker Yandiswa Vara insisted that today’s meeting was a continuation of the adjourned meeting and that as such, no new items may by law be added to the agenda.
Councillors Nhanha and Brian Fargher objected strongly on points of order. Nhanha cited a letter from municipal manager Moppo Mene apologising for the omission and assuring him it would be included in today’s agenda. Grocott’s Mail has a copy of this letter.
Tempers flared and while primarily between Vara, Nhanha and Fargher, other councillors joined the fray. At one point, fellow ANC councillors intervened when Ward 11 councillor Mncedisi Gojela angrily interrupted new EFF councillor Siyanthanda Dyantyi when she stood up to speak. She was left shaken by the close, near-physical confrontation. Gojela was later told by the Speaker to apologise, which he did.
In chaos reminiscent of some of the more notorious incidents in Parliament, the Speaker instructed the municipal manager to bring in law enforcement to remove councillors Nhanha and Fargher.
Councillor Matyumza requested that law enforcement deal also with “the media” for alleged unauthorised documentation of the meeting. Grocott’s Mail was the only media representative present.
At first two somewhat perplexed-looking traffic officers were summoned into the Chambers. Ten minutes later no fewer than eight armed SAPS members led by Joza Station Commander Colonel Vivian Tembani entered and Nhanha and Fargher were surrounded by no fewer than 10 law enforcement officers inside the Chamber. According to a subsequent statement by the DA, there were more officers outside the chambers and another contingent arrived as the councillors were leaving, totalling around 20. Grocott’s Mail remained inside the Council Chamber and so did not see first-hand how many officers were outside.
In a statement released after the incident, the DA said, “The failing ANC government in the Makana Local Municipality has stooped to the level of using the South African Police Service (SAPS) to try and hide its absolute failure. Today, while DA Councillors were attempting to fight for the rights of people oppressed by poverty, the failing ANC called in the SAPS to intimidate the DA caucus.
“Eight armed police officers entered the council chamber to intimidate the DA. Eventually, 20 armed officers forcibly removed Cllr Brian Fargher and I. In accordance with the rules of council, weapons are not allowed in the chamber.
“All of this happened after the DA insisted that its item, to discuss the plight of the resident of Sun City Informal Settlement, be placed on the agenda.”
The DA last week declared their support for the group of citizens calling for the dissolution of the Makana Council in terms of Section 139(1)(c) and yesterday 50 DA members were among a crowd of hundreds of residents of different races, classes and political persuasions who marched on the City Hall to hand over a petition of close to 21 000 signatures to this effect.
Commenting at the close of the open segment of today’s meeting, Vara said of yesterday’s march, “These mass actions are not surprising. They are driven by one and only thing – the elections next year. We must always be ready and we must warn residents not to be misled by any Tom Dick or Harry telling them not to pay their rates. They have only one thing in mind – to destroy this municipality.”
COUNCILLORS AND QUORUMS IN MAKANA
ANC 11 + 6 17
DA 5 + 3 8
EFF 1 (one resigned this morning)