Judge questions ANC’s Tlokwe application
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Pretoria - The notion of settling by "democratic means" a dispute about who the mayor of Tlokwe should be was raised by a High Court in Pretoria judge on Tuesday.
Judge Neil Tuchten said that since the African National Congress had stated it was the majority party in the Tlokwe municipality, the question was whether the effects of a council meeting unseating mayor Maphetle Maphetle could not be put right by "democratic means".
The ANC is trying to have nullified a council meeting at which Democratic Alliance councillor Annette Combrink was voted in as mayor.
The ANC said it did not recognise Combrink as mayor, and that Maphetle still held the post.
On July 2, Combrink was voted in as the new mayor for the second time since November, unseating Maphetle.
The next day, the ANC's North West provincial disciplinary committee expelled 14 of its councillors who had voted to unseat Maphetle. They were also removed as Tlokwe councillors.
On July 10, the ANC served court papers on 48 Tlokwe municipal councillors - 26 of them ANC councillors, 19 DA, two Freedom Front Plus, and one from the Congress of the People.
Wim Scholtz, for the speaker of the Tlokwe council, said on Tuesday there was a three-month moratorium on rescinding council decisions.
Tuchten asked why the ANC could not merely wait for the three months to end.
"Why can't this await the democratic process of three months? Why should I be asked to put back what has now become a minority party (the ANC) based on a technicality?
"What terrible things are going to happen in three months? Why can't the ANC reap its allegedly just reward for its democratic majority in... in fact now two months' time?" he asked.
Scholtz said anything could happen in the three months.
"The executive mayor has extensive power. That (the time) would be an invitation for the party to abuse the system," he said.
Tuchten said time was an issue because the ANC was unsure about its majority in Tlokwe.
Scholtz said the opposition in the council had acted against the rules by allowing the council meeting at which Combrink was voted in as mayor.
He said the council speaker had previously cancelled the meeting, and had the right to do so without consulting the councillors or informing the public.
However, after the court was adjourned for lunch, Scholtz said the speaker clearly mentioned in an sms to councillors that the meeting had been postponed.
Tuchten asked why the speaker had previously implied that the meeting was cancelled.
"This was to avoid the connotation of an adjournment," Scholtz said.
Tuchten said the opposition was allowed to be opportunistic "within broad limits".
"That is their job. They must embarrass the government. They must hold it up to stringent criticism. Where possible, they must exploit divisions in government and show the voters that government is not this monolith."
Such situations kept the ruling party "on its toes" and improved democracy, the judge said.
The application continues. - Sapa