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Court rules ‘fired’ IFP councillors in KZN keep their jobs until their case is heard

IFP mayor of Umzinyathi District Municipality Petros Ngubane. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL Politics

IFP mayor of Umzinyathi District Municipality Petros Ngubane. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL Politics

Published Oct 6, 2023


Nine councillors, mainly from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) of Umvoti (Greytown) Local Municipality who were recently sacked by KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi for allegedly walking out of three council meetings and absenteeism, have obtained an interim order reinstating them into their positions.

On Friday, the Pietermaritzburg High Court granted them an interim order until the matter is heard and ruled upon.

Also getting his job back is Petros Ngubane, the IFP mayor of Umzinyathi District Municipality, anchored in Dundee.

The court was scathing of Umvoti Mayor Philani ‘PG’ Mavundla for the role he played throughout the matter, saying that by being the complainant and being part of the committee and then reporting to the first respondent that the applicant be expelled, this could be seen as an irregular and unfair procedure and create a wrong perception.

Ngubane and others, including former Umvoti Local Municipality mayor Gabriel Malembe and Speaker Thando Dlamini, also from the IFP, were sacked as public representatives in the local municipality in the KZN Midlands last month.

As a result of that sacking at the local level, Ngubane was about to lose his mayoral chains at the district level, as he is a seconded councillor from the local municipality.

Their sacking came after a special ethics committee found them guilty of walking out of council sittings and absenteeism on three occasions.

One of the cited cases of walking out is the June 29, 2023, special council sitting convened by a representative of Cogta MEC, where the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC) and the African National Congress (ANC) ousted the IFP from power through a vote of no confidence.

The committee recommended that they be fired because they breached their oath of office and service to the people who elected them.

Upon receiving and studying the recommendations of the committee, the MEC for Cogta in the province said they should be expelled and she notified the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) of the decision, thus declaring vacancies.

Ngubane and the others then filed a two-pronged legal battle.

The first application that was heard by the court on October 2 was for an interim interdict preventing the MEC from taking any action against them until the matter is finalised in court.

An interdict was also sought to stop the IEC from removing them from office and holding any by-elections.

Furthermore, they wanted the Umvoti municipality Speaker, municipal manager Noxolo Ndaba, and Sithole-Moloi to be interdicted from attending council meetings until the matter is ruled upon by the court.

They argued that should they be removed, they will suffer irreparable harm since they stand a good chance of setting aside the decision by Sithole-Moloi.

In his court papers, Ngubane denied that he boycotted the meeting where the IFP was ousted from power.

He told the court that he logged in and took part in it via virtual platforms. However, when he raised concerns about the legality of the sitting to Thando Tubane, the Cogta Head of Department (HoD) who was assigned to convene the sitting, he was permanently muted.

Judge PC Bezuidenhout ruled that Ngubane and the others were able to convince the court that the matter was urgent and the interim order should be granted.

“Having considered all these submissions and the papers herein, I am satisfied that there is urgency in the matter resulting from the letter which was addressed to the IEC on 26 September 2023.

“If the IEC commences with the process of a by-election resulting from the said expulsion of these applicants, then it would result in unnecessary and fruitless expenditure if the said review application is successful.

"It will be costly to reverse the process which had then been done,” the judge said, granting the interim order.

The ABC was granted leave to intervene and be joined as the tenth respondent.

Mavundla and Sithole-Moloi are yet to comment after the ruling.

Ngubane said he was satisfied that the court ruled in that way and dedicated his victory to the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the founder of the IFP.

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