Cape Town - A decision to remove 12 councillors from the Oudtshoorn municipality was set aside by the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
Judge Owen Rogers heard two applications in the beginning of August by the Democratic Alliance, the Congress of the People (Cope), and councillors of both parties.
The respondents included the municipality, its five ANC coalition councillors who formed a disciplinary committee, the acting municipal manager, and the council's speaker.
Rogers set aside the disciplinary committee's decision in February to remove the DA and Cope councillors from their seats because they allegedly missed three consecutive council meetings.
He found they had remained members of the council at all times.
The municipality and the Electoral Commission of SA were interdicted from calling for or holding by-elections in respect of those councillors' seats.
The municipality has been fraught with instability and power struggles between separate coalitions by the African National Congress and the DA.
Rogers found that only local government MEC Anton Bredell had the power to remove councillors.
“The conclusions and recommendations of a disciplinary committee or council do not have an interim effect; councillors may not be lawfully suspended by a committee or council pending the MEC's decision,” he said in his written judgment.
The municipality was ordered to pay the costs of the applicants.
Bredell welcomed the judgment on Wednesday, saying adherence to the constitution and rule of law was non-negotiable.
“It is time that democracy starts winning in Oudtshoorn. I expect that the minority coalition in Oudtshoorn will this time abide by and respect the decision of the high court,” he said.
“In my view it's now time that the council concentrates its energy on upholding democracy and the will of the residents of Oudtshoorn whom they have been elected to serve.”
Rogers indefinitely postponed an alternative prayer for an order of constitutional invalidity.