Pretoria - The much-anticipated council sitting to elect a Tshwane mayor was adjourned “until further notice” for speaker Mncedi Ndzwanana to seek legal advice regarding the removal of Cope’s sole councillor Justice Sefanyetso from council.
This was despite the fact that on Monday city manager Johann Mettler officially declared a vacancy of a Cope councillor as one of the four vacancies by writing to the Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) Gauteng provincial officer.
Ndzwanana said his decision to seek legal advice was made after he received two letters on the withdrawal of Sefanyetso from both Cope president Mosioua Lekota and City of Joburg Speaker Colleen Makhubela, who is also a Cope member.
“I would like to thank the speaker of Johannesburg for making time. When I requested her to come and clarify she agreed. On that basis I am going to continue seeking legal advice. In other words, having said that this meeting is adjourned until further notice,” he said.
Cope’s spokesperson Dennis Bloem speaks to journalists about the withdrawal of party councillor Justice Sefanyetso. The Tshwane council speaker Mncedi Ndzwanana has postponed the election of a new mayor. @CityTshwane #TshwaneCouncil #tshwanemayor @Action4SA @TeamCOPESA pic.twitter.com/KBkyK4wD9p— Pretoria News (@pretorianews) March 22, 2023
The plot thickened on the future of Sefanyetso in council after a party faction aligned to deputy president Willie Madisha vowed to challenge his removal in court.
The faction accused Lekota of being behind a move to install Sefanyetso as councillor despite accusations that he was in possession of two IDs and has a criminal record.
Sefanyetso replaced former Cope councillor, Dr Murunwa Makwarela, who was elected as Tshwane mayor on February 28.
Makwarela subsequently resigned under a cloud after it emerged that he furnished a fake insolvency certificate to be reinstated as mayor after he was disqualified as a councillor.
Cope’s spokesperson Dennis Bloem implicated Lekota in a decision to withdraw Sefanyetso after he was accused of being on the wrong side of the law.
He disputed claims that Sefanyetso was in possession of two IDs and has a criminal record, citing that the party intended to challenge a decision to recall him.
Gauteng provincial chairperson, Thomas Mofokeng, said in a media statement that Sefanyetso “has been withdrawn with immediate effect from the Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) list and his Cope membership has also been suspended with immediate effect pending his appearance before the disciplinary committee”.
Mofokeng said Sefanyetso’s matter would be referred to the SAPS and a case would be opened for an urgent investigation.
“Cope is proud to announce that our vetting processes have been strengthened and the successful candidate to fill the vacant PR position in the Tshwane Metro has been identified and approved by Cope Gauteng province and endorsed by the president, Mosiuoa Lekota,” Mofokeng said.
Reacting to Sefanyetso’s withdrawal, Bloem said: “We also see a letter here flying around in the street, signed by Lekota. It is a letter that comes from Colleen Makhubela, who is a councillor in Johannesburg and this letter is flying around signed by Lekota; that’s all that we know.”
In council, Ndzwanana indicated that the issue of the Cope councillor had not yet been sorted out.
Bloem said: “In other words, there is no replacement for Justice yet. I can tell you now that we are on our way to court and we are going to challenge this that they are talking about.”
He said in terms of Cope’s Constitution “no one has the power to do what Lekota has done”.
“It is only congress’s national committee that can take such a decision to remove the secretary for election,” he said.
According to him, the IEC has corrected information that Sefanyetso has two IDs.
“It has proven that it was a typo… Justice doesn’t have two IDs.”
Regarding claims that Sefanyetso has a criminal record, Bloem said the councillor was charged with a traffic offence in 2001 and he paid a fine of R5 000.
“(That was) 22 years ago; there is no criminal record of Justice and that is why he was in the police. The police can never hold a person with a criminal record. Justice is clean and he is ready to take up a seat in council,” he said.
Contacted for comment Mofokeng said: “I don't know what Dennis is talking about.”
He said the party’s Constitution dictated that all members must be vetted before they can be approved to hold public office.
He explained that according to a clause in Cope’s Constitution all people seeking to hold public office have to “go through the electoral college”.
The college, he said, was an independent structure run by people with a good standing in communities.
Mofokeng said Sefanyetso didn’t go through the electoral college process for vetting and was therefore not eligible to hold public office in the name of Cope.
He said the Sefanyetso’s case regarding his criminal record was reported to the party by concerned public members.
“When we got the news that he got this record we asked him to bring us an affidavit that he didn’t have that record. We didn’t get that hence his removal,” he said.
It was expected that the ANC-EFF voting bloc would field a sole Pan Africanist Congress councillor, Molwantwa Tshabadi, as their mayoral candidate to contest with DA caucus leader Cilliers Brink, who is a preferred candidate for the multiparty coalition.
Meanwhile, ActionSA has appointed three new councillors Mark Boikanyo, Hluphi Gafane and Derick Mahlangu to replace those whose memberships were terminated after they were accused of working with the ANC and EFF.