Durban — The DA in KwaZulu-Natal has hailed the Durban High Court ruling that reinstated its Umdoni Local Municipality councillor back to the executive committee.
In a judgment on Monday, Judge ZP Nkosi ordered the reinstatement of an Exco seat back to the DA.
The DA had gone to court last year after the ANC-led municipality on the KZN South Coast took away the seat from the DA and gave it to the ANC.
The DA argued that the seat legally belonged to it. The ANC did not agree but the court set aside the municipality’s decision and ordered the municipal manager and speaker to give the seat back to the DA.
The handing down of judgment was attended by DA provincial leader Dean Macpherson, Umdoni Municipality DA caucus leader Shara Singh and Shamila Sookhraj who was appointed by the DA to the Exco but was blocked by the municipality.
Speaking outside the court, Macpherson hailed the judgment as a victory for justice, adding that it was sending a message to the ANC that the abuse of power would not be tolerated.
“As the DA in KwaZulu-Natal, we are immensely pleased with the court judgment. The justice has set aside the decision of the ANC not to appoint Shamila Sookhraj as an Exco councillor. More importantly, the municipal manager would pay the cost personally for sabotaging councillor Sookhraj.
“This judgment sends a strong message to the ANC, local government, provincial and national government that the DA would not allow the ANC to bully us and use the legislation to suit their needs. We call on the Umdoni Speaker to implement the judgment without delay,” he said.
In a seven-seat council, the DA got two, the ANC three, while the EFF and the IFP got one each.
The problem started when the DA Exco councillor Edwin Baptie resigned to take up a seat in the provincial legislature in August 2022.
By that time the ANC had taken ward 13 from the DA through a by-election after the DA councillor had resigned.
Instead of replacing Baptie with the DA’s Sookhraj, the municipality appointed the new ANC councillor, arguing that the DA has lost a seat in the council therefore, it should not have two seats in the Exco anymore.
Challenging that, the DA argued that the allocation of Exco happens once and no recalculations could take place in the middle of the term.
The act that prevented the reshuffling of the Exco came into effect just before the 2021 local government polls. It was amended to avoid instability that could be caused by by-elections.
With this court victory, councillor Sookhraj would double her salary from R300 000 to more than R600 000 per annum. She would also be back paid from November 2022 – the time she was appointed by the DA as an Exco member.
Sookhraj expressed her gratitude to the DA for supporting her and her Exco appointment. DA caucus leader Shara Singh said the ANC councillor illegally given the Exco seat would have to pay back all the benefits he illegally received as an Exco member.
After the 2021 local government elections, the ANC got 17 seats, the DA (7), IFP (5), EFF (5), AIC (1), AM4C (1) and Al Jama-ah (1).
Umdoni Municipal Manager Thabisile Ndlela said she had not seen the judgment because she had been in a meeting the whole day. She would look at the judgment first before commenting, she said.
The DA believed the ANC was pushing its councillor to the Exco because it wanted to have a majority to make decisions without relying on its coalition partner – the EFF. With the DA and the IFP relationship intact and ANC/ EFF coalition sometimes shaky it will be difficult for Exco to make decisions.
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