Durban - The inaugural meeting of the uMngeni municipal council in KwaZulu-Natal collapsed on Friday without the councillors being sworn in and the election of office-bearers taking place.
This after the DA and EFF councillors staged a walkout because suspended municipal manager Thembeka Cibane returned to work and allegedly attempted to preside over the meeting.
Despite the meeting collapsing, the DA and EFF councillors were later sworn-in after they approached the local magistrate.
Umngeni is one of the hung municipalities in the province with the DA in the majority with 13 seats, ANC 10 and EFF two.
Independent Media understands that Cibane apparently learnt that the Labour Relations Act allowed her to return to work if not charged within 90 days from the day of her suspension in early August.
DA mayoral-elect Chris Pappas said they could not agree to the meeting continuing because of the presence of Cibane.
“The suspension clause number 7 says that she cannot be on municipal premises so that stands until the council resolution changes that.
“There is no council to change that, which means her presence here makes this meeting illegal,” Pappas said, adding that the acting municipal manager did not enforce the conditions of Cibane’s suspension.
He also said his party could not agree to continue with the meeting that was illegal despite the ANC allegedly quite happy it went ahead.
“They are used to doing things illegally and not by the book but as the DA we could not agree to that.”
DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal Francois Rodgers confirmed that their councillors have been sworn-in because their names were published in a government gazette.
“Our understanding is that he can do that. He has that power,” Rodgers said about the magistrate swearing-in the councillors.
Pappas said there were now officially councillors.
“We hold a majority in council and we will be demanding that a council meeting be called within 72 hours to elect office bearers,” Pappas said.
EFF provincial leader Vusi Khoza said he was unaware about the developments in the municipality.
“Our mandate to our councillor was to go to the council, abstain and not participate,” he said.
Khoza also said the question was who had suspended Cibane for what reason, what the terms were for her suspension and the basis for her return to work.
ANC provincial spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said: “I don’t know what is happening in uMngeni. Maybe region may explain.”
Co-operative governance spokesperson Senzelwe Mzila said they were aware of reports that the inaugural meeting collapsed.
“The department is concerned about this. The department will investigate and give guidance to the municipality,” Mzila said.
However, DA federal leader John Steenhuisen said it was very unfortunate when the democratic outcome of the people of the municipality was deliberately thwarted by a person thinking she was above the election results.
Steenhuisen said it was impossible for a suspended person to perform her duties and blamed the ANC for orchestrating the fiasco.
“They lost power here and they don’t want to hand over power peacefully in terms of legislation and law. It would have been unlawful for the DA to partake in that meeting with an unlawful person presiding.”
He also said had the meeting continued, the ANC would have challenged it in order to frustrate the democratic outcome of the elections.
“They can frustrate, and they can try to delay but the voice of the people will be heard, law and right will be done in this municipality,” Steenhuisen said.
Cibane could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.