Durban - As the battle for the control of the uPhongolo heats up, the IFP-run local municipality has threatened to hit the ANC in the Mzala Nxumalo (Zululand) region with cost orders if it takes the by-election matter to the Pietermaritzburg High Court for final arbitration.
The threats contained in a legal letter sent to the ANC recently follow one where Vryheid-based law firm, BM Thusini Inc, told the municipality that there was enough evidence that 13 ward councillors of the IFP in the municipality resigned in November last year and by-elections should be called henceforth.
The lawyers for the ANC first wrote to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) in Durban, asking it to declare a vacancy in the 13 wards of the municipality on the basis that, shortly after the elections on November 1, the IFP asked the councillors to resign and they obliged.
In response to the ANC’s demand, the IEC said it has no right to declare vacancies, as that was the duty of the municipal manager, in this case, Bethune Khali who is currently acting in the position.
But Khali said his office will counter the litigation by asking the court to penalise the governing party with cost orders.
Cost orders are normally ordered to financially compensate one party if the other one brought a case that had no basis or tried to defend a case they have should have settled without going to court.
“The councillors in question did not resign as ward councillors… A vacancy may only be declared in an instance where a ward councillor resigned or passed away; the office of the municipal manager is thus not in a position to declare a vacancy.
“We accordingly urge you to desist from embarking on litigation in this matter as such would be costly for both our clients. Please be advised that any action taken by the ANC will be vigorously defended and a cost order on an attorney and own client scale would be sought,” reads a response from Zondi and Associates which is acting on behalf of the municipality.
But, BM Thusini Inc told the municipality that it has enough evidence to pursue the case. It also said it would, likewise, seek a punitive cost order against the municipality.
The regional secretary of the ANC in the region, Zakhele Buthelezi, said the party’s instructions to the law firm have always been clear that if the municipal manager does not resolve the matter, the court should be the final arbiter.
Khali said they still stand by their assertion that they will defend the matter in court and the ANC has no case at all.