PORT ELIZABETH - A Nelson Mandela Special Council Meeting came to a standstill on Tuesday after municipal security and metro police officers entered the building in attempt to eject 23-year-old Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor Lutho Sokudela.
All efforts to eject the second youngest councillor in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro failed after DA members, now occupying opposition benches, showed defiance to the instruction by Speaker Buyelwa Mafaya.
The chaos erupted after City Manager Johann Mettler cited a recent Port Elizabeth High Court judgment on Victor Manyati’s DA membership.
Mettler said the judgment was clear in that it stated that Manyati would remain on as a councillor until the DA’s disciplinary processes against him were finalised.
According to the DA, Manyati is no longer a DA member and internal processes against him have been finalised. Sokudela was sworn in as a DA councillor earlier this month and replaces Manyati.
Last month, Manyati abstained from a vote which led to the ousting of former council speaker Jonathan Lawack of the DA.
Subsequent to Lawack’s ousting, Athol Trollip was booted from office and Mongameli Bobani of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) was elected unanimously as the new Executive Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay.
The DA and its coalition partners had gone to the high court last week in a bid to have the court review or declare unlawful the decisions taken at last month's council meeting, but they lost the application amid a damning judgment.
The court pointed to "flaws in the political decision making of the DA" which ultimately led to their defeat.
According to the judgment, in terms of the DA's own constitution the party guaranteed the rights of its members to principles of a fair process, however, the court found that the party was in breach of its own constitution.
Security officials attempted several times to eject the young councillor, however, DA members were adamant that he was not going anywhere.
Scuffles ensued, chairs were tossed aside and a curtain was even pulled from the rails but DA members protected their new recruit by forming a barrier around him.
DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga, former mayor Athol Trollip and former budget and treasury MMC Retief Odendaal were seen embroiled in the commotion.
At a press conference after the chaotic meeting, ANC Chief Whip Bicks Ndoni said that the DA were again showing disrespect for the law.
Ndoni said that subsequent to the high court judgment, the DA had not provided any correspondence to the City Manager's Office, showing that the processes against Manyati had been finalised.
"Manyati is a councillor and will continue to be a councillor until that disciplinary process is concluded. There is nothing in the municipal manager's office to say this is what has happened. We are not debating a political matter here, this is a legal matter. You have not followed processes of justice and fairness Mr DA and therefore your constitution says follow that. It's a directive from the court," said Ndoni.
Meanwhile, Bobani condemned what had transpired and claimed that the DA councillors wanted to disrupt the meeting.
"I feel sorry for that young man they are spoiling his future. The speaker obtained legal advice that [Sokudela] is not a councillor and Manyati remains a councillor. The DA also knows that. A caucus was called so this matter could be put to rest but the DA had a problem. They [DA] came to this meeting with a hidden agenda, five of their councillors were not even present," said Bobani.
Mafaya also indicated that she would take steps against Odendaal who allegedly threatened that "bloodshed" would be spilt at the meeting.
Odendaal however dismissed the allegations saying that his utterances were deliberately being distorted. He said that he had asked her permission to approach the podium where he raised his concerns on the safety of councillors.
"I believe that she's looking for a scapegoat because she could not control the meeting.I was concerned about what was happening and I asked that she put a stop to it," said Odendaal.
Odendaal conceded to saying: "I'm concerned that there will be bloodshed," he said.
"I said to her three times it is not a threat , there was no reason for me to go and threaten her. It was clear that things were going south and I said it in a manner to get her to take control of the meeting. There was no malice in my intentions."
The special council meeting was called to consider three items including allegations of misconduct against the City Manager. The meeting was adjourned and is expected to reconvene on Thursday.
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African News Agency (ANA)