Cape Town - A full meeting of the Cape Town city council was disrupted on Wednesday as ANC councillors threw their agendas on the floor to protest against the draft budget being tabled before the documents had been circulated.
By 3pm, the council was still stuck on the first agenda item as the Speaker had to call for several adjournments to restore order.
Despite the chaos, the council managed to approve the controversial new city logo, which has been lashed by a storm of criticism from the opposition and the public since it was revealed.
The uproar started when mayor Patricia de Lille tabled the draft budget for the next two years with the recommendation it be released for public comment.
ANC chief whip Xolani Sotashe said: “We’re told we must vote but we haven’t seen the documents. Are you saying that we must flout the legislation and approve something we have not seen? You circulate the information 72 hours before the sitting of the council. It’s wrong, Mr Speaker, and we won’t allow it.”
De Lille weighed in on the debate, saying differences in the interpretation of the Municipal Finance Management Act would not be resolved during a council meeting – the ANC could lodge a formal complaint afterwards.
ANC members said they should be able to see the draft budget and associated resolutions before the council meeting.
The DA-led city contended it was only a draft budget and the recommendation voted on on Wednesday was on whether to release it for public participation.
The draft budget was circulated after the mayor’s speech to all the councillors in the chamber. They said it was only when the budget had to be voted on that it would be circulated before the meeting.
On Wednesday, when the Speaker, Dirk Smit, ruled the council would still vote on the draft budget, ANC councillors started shouting and singing.
The meeting adjourned for almost 45 minutes, with ANC councillors remaining in the chamber chanting and dancing.
When the meeting resumed, Smit said: “The item in front of us is legally compliant and therefore this council is entitled to take the matter forward.”
Sotashe again interjected, saying Smit had reneged on a proposal made to the ANC during the break, that he would adjourn the meeting so that legal opinion could be sought.
When Smit denied this, Sotashe jumped up and approached the podium to address the Speaker directly.
As tempers flared, other ANC councillors also came forward to throw their agendas with the draft budget in front of the podium. The floor was soon covered in mounds of paper as ANC councillors continued to dance and chant in the chamber.
After several minutes of this the DA councillors walked out.
The dancing and singing continued for another half hour, until DA councillors returned to the chamber to gather the agendas off the floor.
Sotashe told his caucus during the break that the Speaker had lied about seeking legal opinion and about adjourning the meeting.
When council resumed, the Speaker again called for a vote on the recommendation to submit the budget for public participation, which sparked yet more outrage.
De Lille said: “Even if there are disagreements, there are procedures to follow. We are paid to manage and govern the city.”
She added that the ANC’s behaviour was yet another action by the party to make the city ungovernable.
Although the meeting resumed in the afternoon, with the ANC councillors in their seats, the party’s reaction to the budget drew criticism from other opposition parties.
JC Krynauw of Cope, said he was “disgusted” by the behaviour of both the ANC and the DA. He said the city had been wrong to push the draft budget through last year without first circulating the documents, and it was wrong to do so again.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right. This is an arrogance that we are detecting in both parties.”
The ACDP’s Demetrius Dudley said: “It is clear that both the ANC and the DA disregarded protocol and decorum and showed total disrespect for the Speaker’s position and the institution of council.”
He added that the DA’s approach to presenting the budget was an “election ploy”, but that the ANC had disregarded respectability and tolerance with their reaction. “The ACDP does not and never will condone such behaviour and process.”