Bitou suspends controversial councillor Peter Lobese but fails in fresh attempt to elect a mayor
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FIFTH time may be a charm for the embattled Bitou municipality as another attempt to elect a mayor failed.
During the municipality’s court-ordered meeting held on Tuesday, an attempt to elect a new mayor to replace the Active United Front’s Peter Lobese ended in a stale-mate.
Last week Western Cape High Court Judge Mohamed Salie ordered the municipality to convene a council meeting to elect a new mayor. This was after the ANC had approached the court to set aside a series of meetings that saw the DA wrangling control of the municipality from the ANC naming their councillor Bill Nel as mayor and Lobese as speaker despite him having been removed from the executive through a motion of no confidence back in April.
Tuesday’s meeting ended with Lobese suspended as a councillor based on the outcomes of a Section 106 investigation into his conduct as mayor and failure on his side to respond to correspondence from council to state why he shouldn’t be suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary process.
The suspension meant Lobese was unable to participate in the election that saw the DA’s six councillors vote for Nel and the ANC voting for their preferred candidate, Sandiso Gcabayi who is acting in the position of mayor following Lobese’s removal.
And the DA has already cried foul and threatening to file an urgent court application to set aside the decisions on this meeting stating that it contravened the court order.
The order mandated that a meeting be held on June 8 for the purpose of ‘considering, allowing debate and voting of the items which appeared on the agenda of May 31 ordinary council meeting’.
“The election of the executive mayor shall be the first order of business after items 1 - 8 of that agenda,” read Sallie’s order. The first items of the agenda dealt with administrative procedures.
Nel said the fact that ANC’s speaker Euan Wilderman introduced other items before the election was in contravention of the order.
“The whole meeting was a fiasco, the proceedings were in contravention of the court order which said the first order of business should be the election of the mayor, instead they began with the suspension of councillor Lobese,” he said.
“The speaker also assumed the right to suspend a councillor which he does not have the right to do so. When it came the time to vote for a mayor, councillor Lobese was not given a ballot even though he voiced his vote for me as candidate.
“We are in consultation with our lawyers and are looking to bring an urgent ex parte application to overturn the decisions of this meeting.”
Gcabayi said the meeting achieved what it sought to, which was to deal with the matters on the agenda which had been left outstanding, including Lobese’s suspension.
“Lobese was suspended by council due this failure to respond to two letters written to him by the speaker on the findings of the Section 106 investigation,” he said.
“Another meeting will discuss setting up a committee for his disciplinary matter and take it from there but he was suspended with the full support of all 12 councillors.”
Asked whether council deviated from the court order by dealing with other matters before the mayoral election, Gcabayi said the speaker followed the rules of order.
A meeting has now been scheduled for June 17 to elect a new mayor.