Why Da Gama, Mathebe were let off the hook
Johannesburg - MEC for local government in Gauteng Lebogang Maile was on Tuesday at pains to explain the reversal of last week’s decision to suspend two DA councillors in Tshwane and Joburg.
He admitted he may have committed mistakes in the process. The DA has accused him of abusing his office and of populism after he slapped former Joburg speaker Vasco da Gama and Tshwane speaker Katlego Mathebe with letters of suspension without pay for three and six months respectively last week.
Maile had accused the two of using their positions to advance their interests and those of the DA.
After the DA threatened him with legal action and filed papers on an urgent basis on Friday, Maile reversed the decision after seeking external legal advice from senior counsel advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.
On Tuesday, Maile stuck partially to his guns, accusing the two councillors of abusing their power to help the DA cling to power. He said he reversed their suspensions because he and his internal legal advisers were not aware of previous cases similar to this and how they were handled until the DA made him aware when it sent him a letter threatening to drag him to court.
“The letter that was written to us by the DA was quoting two case laws. We did not have the two case laws. We never had sight of those two case laws and that is why we had to seek legal counsel,” Maile said.
One of the cases included the expulsion of former Cape Town councillor Andile Lili by former Western Cape local government MEC Anton Bredell for insulting community members, ordering them out of their homes and threatening to demolish their homes.
Before Lili was expelled, he was subjected to a disciplinary hearing after which the Cape Town council recommended that he be fired by Bredell and his appeal at the Constitutional Court was rejected.
Maile was advised not to rush to remove the two councillors before action was taken against them in their municipalities on their alleged (mis)conduct.
He has since called for Da Gama and Mathebe to be investigated by their councils. “Despite the fact that the law is clear, are you going to be arrogant and naive? You are going to insist? What inspires you? Is it the functionality of council and the upholding of democracy or is it the purging of people, these two councillors? We are not obsessed with these two people,” Maile said.
He was not embarrassed by being forced to back-pedal on his decision.
“You will appreciate that all of us are entitled to legal advice because your lawyer tells you that these are our chances or these are our weaknesses in the cases and how do we strengthen it,” he said.
He said the DA’s threat to seek a personal legal costs order if he did not rescind the decision was not among the reasons why he quickly reversed the suspensions. “If it is going to be reduced to me as a person well that comes with the territory, so be it,” Maile said.
Independent Media understands the two councillors were considering launching a civil suit against Maile for tarnishing their reputation.
He insisted the councillors were still not off the hook. “Even if we might have erred on a step or whatever, but our case is solid. We are forging ahead,” he said.