Johannesburg - The “divided house” that is the ANC in Tlokwe will have its work cut out when it tries to regain its majority in the coming municipal by-elections.
This is after the Pretoria High Court ruling confirmed the validity of a meeting that elected DA councillor Annette Combrink mayor as having been constituted legally.
The ruling brought to an end an almost month-long dispute over who the rightful mayor of Tlokwe is.
Earlier this month, ANC mayor Maphetle Maphetle was unseated with the help of 14 ANC councillors, who were later expelled from the party.
Judge Neil Tuchten ordered on Monday that Maphetle, council Speaker Barei Segotso and members of the mayoral committee make way for the DA.
They were ordered to have vacated the council offices by 10am on Tuesday.
The ruling party lost its majority when it fired the renegade councillors, with its seat allocation going down from 30 to 20.
Opposition parties have forged a strong alliance that now occupies 22 seats in the municipality in Tlokwe.
If the union between the DA with 19 councillors, Cope with one and the Freedom Front Plus with two councillors continues, the ANC will be outvoted unless it can manage to win back at least three of the 10 contested wards.
Winning the three could help the ruling party if it still intends to unseat Combrink in a motion of no confidence, which needs support in numbers to be successful.
In his court ruling on Monday, the judge stopped short of saying the ANC had itself to blame as he described the ruling party in Tlokwe as a “house divided against itself” that he said “cannot stand”.
He pointed to allegations of corruption against Maphetle as the basis for the former mayor’s removal, citing the councillors who had voted him out.
Maphetle was the subject of a forensic audit report between December and February that returned at least six allegations of corruption in Tlokwe against him.
Opposition parties and some within the ANC condemned the party for failing to suspend him against the backdrop of the allegations until an investigation had cleared him.
The judge also slammed Segotso’s last-minute postponement of a scheduled council meeting, in which voting was to be held to remove Maphetle.
This was after she had realised that most of the ANC councillors were not going to attend because they had to attend a disciplinary hearing at the ANC provincial office.
Those who were to attend the hearing broke ranks with the party and helped the opposition to unseat Maphetle on July 2.
They had done the same thing in November.
Judge Tuchten rejected the argument that Segotso had acted within her powers, saying she had exercised that power for an ulterior purpose.
He found the meeting that ousted Maphetle and its resolutions had been legitimate.
Meanwhile, Combrink said she was going to push for Maphetle, Segotso and others to repay the salaries they were paid for their positions, which were the subject of a dispute.
This means that Combrink will demand her July salary as mayor that the council paid to Maphetle and others before the court judgment.
A number of political parties, including Cope and the United Democratic Movement, have welcomed the ruling.