Poor Dan Plato. He’s become ex-mayor of Cape Town even before the municipal elections in May.
At the present city council’s second-last meeting yesterday, the opposition ANC rubbed salt into the wound already inflicted by his own party in nominating Patricia de Lille in his place.
As he understated it in his opening speech, “a time of change is unsettling”.
But first there was a more pleasant mayoral duty to perform.
He officially received the bid book for the city’s application to become the World Design Capital in 2014, and was then called upon by mayoral executive member Felicity Purchase to cut the ceremonial cake – a huge square confection decorated in yellow and white that subsequently required four officials to carry it out of the council chamber.
“The eating of the cake must wait until lunch,” Purchase reminded him.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to share any piece of the cake,” said Plato.
“You don’t have to share,” the speaker Dirk Smit overruled him. “We will share with ourselves.”
Plato then attacked the cake with gusto, stabbing it with what looked like a dagger.
“Take it easy,” called an ANC member.
The jocularity was short-lived. Xolani Sotashe of the ANC first surveyed the DA ranks, many of whom have not been renominated high enough on the party list to expect to return, then declared: “There are a lot of grumpy faces on the other side of the House. I don’t know why.”
Turning to Plato, he asked: “What does it say about you as mayor to be rejected by your own party?”
The mayor-for-another-month put on a brave rather than a grumpy face, explaining that the mayoral position had been the subject of strategic negotiations which, unlike ANC negotiations, had been conducted “very responsibly” and had not degenerated into “a physical spat”. His party members rewarded this magnanimity with applause.
Sole Freedom Front Plus member Andre Fourie thereupon paid him a back-handed tribute, complimenting him on bringing calm and sanity to the council after Helen Zille’s “mayoral circus”. He added: “I just hope that when De Lille comes, we won’t go back to the Zille circus.”
“Thank you for acknowledging the role my office played in bringing back calm to the city of Cape Town,” said Plato gratefully.
So many councillors had applied for leave of absence from yesterday’s meeting that the chief whip, Anthea Serritslev, simply read out a long list of surnames only, stumbling once or twice over those she found almost unpronounceable.
Lewis Dunn objected on hearing his name. “I am present,” he announced.
“You are very obvious,” agreed the Speaker, noting Dunn’s bright red shirt.
Sotashe was back on his feet again, called to withdraw his allegation last month that Serritslev’s husband was employed by the council.
“As a disciplined councillor of this chamber (jeers) I withdraw the remark,” he announced.
“Apologise,” called DA councillors, but that was asking too much.
By the way, beware of Sowabe. That’s the Solid Waste Bylaw Enforcement team, that will blitz, without warning, all litterers. Dan Plato announced its formation yesterday. If you’re fined R500 for dropping a stompie, you know whose legacy to thank.