Durban - A troubled local municipality was on Monday forced to abandon a council meeting after chaos erupted when councillors could not agree on how it should be conducted.
This happened at Umuziwabantu Local Municipality which is located in the frigid southern KwaZulu-Natal town of Harding.
In a video which was recorded by someone who attended the meeting and leaked to the Daily News, some councillors are seen climbing onto tables while others were recorded exchanging heated words with the municipal manager, Thamsanqa Gumede.
One councillor is seen scolding and pointing fingers at Gumede who is sitting down and smiling sheepishly throughout the commotion. Other councillors are seen watching in shock and disbelief as the commotion that lasted for about 15 minutes, carried on.
The local municipality has been in turmoil since November last year. Shortly after the November 1 local government elections, the municipality was left hung.
When the first meeting to elect office was convened, something unexpected happened. The position of the speaker was snatched by Victor Mbata of the DA, despite that it was expected to go to the ANC coalition with the ABC (Abantu Botho Congress) of Philani PG Mavundla.
After the shock defeat, the ANC and its coalition partners asked for a caucus break to strategise. Coming back, they were able to snatch the positions of mayor and deputy mayor. However, up to this day, they are still stuck with Mbata who is from the opposition party.
Regarding the commotion on Monday, Mbata claimed that it was caused by Gumede who, despite being away on sick leave, allegedly decided to come back “to convene an illegal council meeting”
“As the speaker, I did not refuse to convene the meeting, I set May 30, 2022, as the date for the meeting. However, they could not wait to hurriedly hold it, hence he decided to come back from sick leave to convene it. The unfortunate part was then what happened on Monday when some councillors said the meeting was illegal and refused to allow it to go ahead,” Mbata claimed.
Gumede refuted Mbata’s claim by saying he convened the meeting because his office (Mbata’s office) was approached as per the law and failed to convene it.
“If the Speaker fails to convene a council meeting as commanded by the law, the municipal manager is approached to do so, that is what happened. They petitioned him to convene the meeting on Friday and he failed. They then approached me to convene it and I did just on Monday and I was following the act. Then I was prevented from convening it,” Gumede said.
Furthermore, he said there was nothing sinister about him abruptly coming back from his sick leave to convene the meeting.
“Even if you are on sick leave, you are still an employee of your employer. That is why I came back when I got the petition. The reason why I could not allow the acting MM (municipal manager) to convene the meeting is that the act does not empower someone who is acting on the position to do that.”