In what was always going to be an inevitable outcome, the EFF and ANC have successfully ousted Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa of the DA in a motion of no confidence on Thursday evening after a frustrating day of bizarre conflict and delays.
There were 111 votes for the motion, with zero against and zero abstentions.
At one point, someone even activated the fire alarm, which had no effect on anything.
Once the motion was debated, the ANC’s Tshwane chairperson Kgosi Maepa listed the mayor’s alleged transgressions, such as the water crisis in Hammanskraal, the irregular Aurecon deal, the Wonderboom Airport tender scandal and the recent alleged sex scandal.
The EFF and ANC had earlier claimed first blood by insisting that they successfully voted to remove DA speaker Katlego Mathebe, with 110 votes in favour of her removal.
The DA protested on the basis that they did not believe the EFF’s councillor, Obakeng Ramabodu, was properly appointed to preside over the meeting.
DA Gauteng leader John Moodey said the party planned to take legal action against the process that chose the EFF councillor as the acting speaker. He claimed the votes would all be ruled illegal.
The activation of the emergency fire alarm did not deter the ANC and EFF politicians. They merely ignored it and switched it off at the instruction of Ramabodu.
The next step was to be the motion of no confidence vote against the DA’s embattled Mokgalapa, but council decided to break for a long time before that could get under way.
The DA has 93 seats, the ANC 89, the EFF 25, the Freedom Front Plus four and the ACDP, Cope and PAC one each in council. To reach a majority, at least 108 votes are needed. Together, the ANC and EFF reach 114.
However, only 78 DA councillors attended, with 87 from the ANC, 24 from the EFF, three from the FF Plus, while the PAC was absent and Cope and the ACDP were represented, according to Maepa.
The figure of 111 therefore represented every single ANC and EFF councillor present.
Since 2pm when the Tshwane metro council was meant to debate the motion of no confidence in Mokgalapa and Mathebe, there had been little progress.
However, after a comedy of disruptions, accusations and counteraccusations, the EFF’s Ramabodu was appointed as the acting speaker despite the DA crying blue murder about it and continuing to try to have it overturned.
The speaker had bizarrely recused herself at the start, much to the chagrin of councillors from the EFF, who made it clear they intended to vote with the ANC to ensure that Mokgalapa and Mathebe were removed.
Maepa had accused the DA of expecting someone who had “been drinking” to chair the meeting, and warned that a representative from the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) would take over the speakership if Mathebe did not return to deal with the agenda as she should have been doing.
Maepa alleged that acting speaker Zweli Khumalo had been “reeking of alcohol”, an allegation that Moodey subsequently repudiated.
He accused the ANC of using “tactics” to “steal” the metro.
Moodey said: “They are doing the same shenanigans they had done in Nelson Mandela Bay when they had a motion of no confidence against Athol Trollip.”
The EFF had physically prevented Khumalo from taking the seat (footage below). The EFF argued that he was not properly appointed as deputy speaker by the council, so should not have taken the seat, but Moodey argued this was also false.
“The acting speaker was appointed and elected by this council in a council meeting, duly so, to act as speaker should the speaker not be available. So, it’s a council resolution,” said Moodey.
“This is nothing else but tactics … Cogta officials are here. We need to ask ourselves who they work for because (Cogta) MEC (Lebogang) Maile was apparently at Tshwane and briefed them. This is a tactic to steal this metro as well. This is a mockery of democracy.”
As for the allegation that Khumalo was inebriated, he said: “That is not true. I had met with him about two hours ago and I can tell you there was no alcohol smell. This meeting should just continue. This is nothing but thuggery…”
After 4pm, a Cogta official was prevented from presiding over the meeting too. The DA was getting in on the disruption act by protesting against the stand-in speaker as Cogta’s Willy Bila went up to preside. The DA councillors chanted: “He is not the Speaker.”
Councillors then went back to singing in the chambers.
The Cogta official then came in and asked parties to nominate a candidate. They nominated Ramabodu from the EFF, but the DA continued to protest, arguing the whole process was illegal.
Last week, during the final Tshwane council meeting of the year, the ANC and EFF both brought motions of no confidence against Mokgalapa.
The meeting, which ran late into the evening, eventually collapsed when the EFF and ANC caucus staged a walk-out after Mathebe disallowed the EFF’s motion on a technicality.
Mathebe had said its motion against Mokgalapa was not based on fact, but opinion.
Quoting the rules, she said the EFF’s reasons advanced “arguments, expressed opinions, or contains incessant factual, incriminating, disparaging or improper suggestions”.
The EFF’s motion related to service delivery issues, including the water crisis in parts of Tshwane.
The ANC, which also submitted its own motion against Mokgalapa, did not stick around long enough to hear whether its motion would be allowed.
Both parties accused Mathebe of only wanting to protect her party – the DA – and her job.
The walkout collapsed the council, and following a count, it was found there was no quorum and the sitting was postponed to 2020.
Earlier during the meeting, the ANC and EFF sent lawyers’ letters to Mathebe imploring her to allow the parties’ respective motions of no confidence or face legal action.
The ANC’s lawyer’s letter stated its motion satisfied all rules and orders of the council, and should be presented for a vote.
The party added if the motion was disallowed it would approach the high court for an interdict against the speaker.
“We therefore write to demand that when the motion arrives, the speaker should table it for consideration by the council or we will have no choice but to approach the court on an urgent basis and will request the court to order the speaker to pay personal costs,” the letter read.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen admitted on Thursday there was a “good likelihood” that Tshwane would end up in a similar situation as Johannesburg, in the aftermath of the ANC unseating the DA-led coalition as the governing party in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Addressing journalists in Parliament on Thursday, Steenhuisen didn’t hide his disappointment at the outcome.
He said he was at the Johannesburg caucus last week and detected a lot of frustration.
“I made a commitment that we will not stay in government for government’s sake,” he said. “I will not be the leader who betrays the principles of the party and sells out.”
He said one or two DA councillors voted with the ANC.
“It is clear there were some deals done and some negotiations with the DA was in bad faith,” he said.
The DA would engage with the parties concerned.
He said the machinations would become clear when the mayoral committee positions were awarded.
He said the EFF put a variety of issues on the negotiation table, and the DA made some counter-proposals. They offered positions of committee chairpersons to the EFF.
“In the end, it turned out to be an academic exercise.”
Invoking Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien”, Steenhuisen said the party had “no regrets” having been in government in Johannesburg since 2016’s dramatic municipal elections. He said it was the right thing to do, as it showed voters that they could affect a change in government.
“Having a variety of hands on the throttle always makes it complicated,” he said.
“We will not go into coalitions for coalitions’ sake. No regrets, a number of lessons, yes. It hasn’t been a good year for the DA, let’s be frankly honest,” Steenhuisen said.
He said they should move on.
“People come and go. But the project is bigger than the people.”