By JONATHAN WALTON
“Public office, in any of the three arms, comes with a lot of power. That power comes with responsibilities whose magnitude ordinarily determines the allocation of resources for the performance of public functions. The powers and resources assigned to each of these arms do not belong to the public office-bearers who occupy positions of high authority therein. They are therefore not to be used for the advancement of personal or sectarian interests. Amandla awethu, mannda ndiashu, maatla ke a rona or matimba ya hina (power belongs to us) and mayibuye iAfrika (restore Africa and its wealth) are much more than mere excitement generating slogans. They convey a very profound reality that State power, the land and its wealth all belong to “we the people”, united in our diversity. These servants are supposed to exercise the power and control these enormous resources at the beck and call of the people. Since state power and resources are for our common good, checks and balances to ensure accountability enjoy pre-eminence in our governance system.”United Democratic Movement v Speaker of the National Assembly and Others (CCT89/17)  ZACC 21; 2017 (8) BCLR 1061 (CC); 2017 (5) SA 300 (CC) (22 June 2017)
It was painful to learn that the unlawfully deployed ‘MCF’ PR Councillors voted with the ANC Councillors against the DA’s motion of no confidence[i] against the Speaker, Councillor Mthuthuzeli Matyumza. I was not expecting the ‘independent’ Councillor from Alicedale to support the motion. From my assessment, the Speaker is not an advocate of ethical governance, openness and transparency.
The Speaker is a person who dislikes constructive engagement from knowledgeable opposition councillors. At the inauguration meeting, and without being apologetic, Cllr Matyumza said that he would be a “partial” Speaker. The ANC’s PEC could have done better in choosing a person of utmost integrity for the position of Speaker. Mayor Yandiswa Vara did not even bother to reprimand the Speaker for making careless statements.
Given the close proximity of the unlawfully deployed ‘MCF’ Councillors to certain ANC Councillors in Makana, it was expected that the ‘MCF’ councillors would not support a principled motion aimed at restoring ethical leadership[ii], good governance and accountability in the Speaker’s office.
When the MCF campaigned for votes, it promised the voters to advocate against lawlessness and unethical governance and uproot corruption at City Hall.
At the first ordinary council meeting, the ‘independent’ Councillor, a proxy for certain members of the ANC on the council, supported an unlawful resolution to remove and replace democratically elected Councillors (DA/EFF) from Sarah Baartman District Municipality (SBDM). In the Municipal Manager’s report on the item, it was said that the representatives, including ANC Councillors, were “too weak” to represent Makana Municipality on the SBDM. It was insulting and a direct attack on the abilities of women. Mayor Vara did not stand up to reprimand her colleagues for insulting women’s abilities.
I remember asking the ‘independent’ Councillor Vuyani Nesi to explain his reasoning for supporting an unlawful resolution. He did not explain at all. Supporting the illegal resolution, the Speaker tabled a questionable and unauthentic “SALGA legal opinion” without a written motion from the “ANC”. I remember the Speaker said: “I will defend my organization’s positions.” I doubt if ANC structures in Makana discussed this issue. I even doubt that the renewed ANC would have supported lawlessness.
Unbecomingly, the Speaker blindly dragged the young and inexperienced ANC Councillors into an indefensible situation. The ‘independent’ Councillor from Alicedale also blindly joined the Speaker’s clumsy breaking-the-law jamboree. At this meeting, the Speaker’s grossly unethical conduct[iii] reared its ugly head. The unlawful attempt to remove the elected representatives (DA/EFF) from the SBDM was correctly prevented by Councillors Philip, Lungile, Jonathan, Kungenka and Jane.
The MCF/DA/EFF was ready to litigate against the Makana Municipality if the unlawful resolution was adopted through irregular means.
Before our unlawful removal from Council, we prepared written motions targeted explicitly at the Speaker’s Office. We observed that the Speaker’s office did not support the work of all Councillors as per the functions of a Speaker. The Speaker’s office is supposed to collaborate constructively with all Councillors, political leaders and civil society without being biased. The Speaker’s functions must be performed diligently and with the utmost integrity.
The Speaker cannot expect Councillors to keep quiet when the business of Council is brought to a standstill.
Regarding theDA’ss motion of no confidence, the Speaker cannot haphazardly decide to convene, cancel or postpone meetings. The Speaker’s responsibility is to ensure that Councillors are adequately prepared for meetings by ensuring that agendas and reports for meetings are issued within a reasonable time.
Recently, and under his watch, important portfolio committee meetings were cancelled because the Speaker was not available. Service delivery issues are mainly discussed and debated at committee meetings. How will Councillors perform their oversight responsibilities under unprofessional circumstances? The DA’s motion should have been understood within this context.
A motion of no confidence in a person’s abilities is not necessarily about punishment. It is about holding those who occupy positions of power accountable. If the ANC Councillors do not understand the meaning of accountability, the abovementioned Constitutional Court ruling is a valuable source of self-education.
Unfortunately, the DA’s well-intended motion did not succeed because the unlawfully deployed ‘MCF’ councillors acted as proxies for the Speaker. If the Speaker persists with how he runs his office and performs his functions, there are other ways and means available to opposition parties to hold the Speaker and other officials accountable.
It seems that the Speaker wants to be above Council. Unrestrained power is a source of dysfunctionality and maladministration. The DA and EFF should not drop the ball on the abuse of power.
[i]” “formal vote by which people (such as the members of a legislature) indicate that they do not support a leader, government, etc.” https://www.britannica.com/dictionary/vote-of-no-confidence /” “motion of no confidence (also variously called a vote of no confidence, no-confidence motion, motion of confidence or vote of confidence) is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, management, etc.) is still deemed fit to hold that position, such as because they are inadequate in some aspect, fail to carry out their obligations or make decisions that other members feel to be detrimental” “ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_of_no_confidence#:~
[ii]” “Ethical leadership is a form of leadership in which individuals demonstrate conduct for the common good that is acceptable and appropriate in every area of their life” https://www.villanovau.com/resources/leadership/what-is-ethical-leadership/ /
[iii]” “not conforming to a high moral standard: morally wrong: not ethical” “legal and unethical business practice” https://www.merriam webster.com/dictionary/unethical#:~:text=Definition%20of%20unethical,practices%20immoral%20and%20unethical%20behavior