A Nelson Mandela Bay council meeting degenerated into chaos on Tuesday morning after attempts by security to eject Lutho Sokudela‚ a recently sworn in DA councillor‚ from the council chamber.
At the first council meeting with the DA in the opposition benches‚ councillors of the party rallied around Sokudela‚ forming a human shield‚ in a bid to prevent security from forcefully removing him.
It all started as both Sokudela and Victor Manyati turned up for the meeting.
Sokudela was sworn in as Manyati’s replacement a couple of weeks ago. However‚ on Thursday the Port Elizabeth High Court ruled that Manyati remained a DA member and a councillor until he either resigned‚ or the party concluded his disciplinary hearing in accordance with its constitution.
At Tuesday’s council meeting‚ city manager Johann Mettler advised that in accordance with the court judgment‚ Manyati was still a councillor and the matter was being handled by the IEC.
This caused a furore‚ with the DA adamant that Manyati was no longer a member of its party and thus should not be in the chamber.
Manyati was instrumental in assisting the ANC‚ UDM‚ EFF‚ AIC and United Front in removing the DA-led coalition from power a month ago.
As speaker Buyelwa Mafaya instructed security officers to remove Sokudela‚ DA councillors jumped to his defence and formed a ring around him.
A screaming match ensued between councillors of the various parties and between DA councillors and security officials.
The DA councillors used chairs to block the security from reaching Sokudela and others could be seen jumping between benches.
The meeting was eventually adjourned by Mafaya until Thursday because she lost control of the meeting.
At a media briefing after the meeting‚ chief whip Bicks Ndoni said the council chamber was a disaster waiting to happen. He said the chamber was congested.
“Let us get a clear assessment of whether we would ever use this chamber for council. Once there’s commotion it becomes problematic.
It was shocking to see seasoned politicians acting in the manner they did.
Deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye
“We urged our councillors not to act and respond. The DA were trying to provoke us.
“They were hell-bent on dissolving the council. We’ll have to have strong discussions about this‚” Ndoni said.
Mayor Mongameli Bobani condemned the behaviour of the DA. He said the DA came with fewer numbers and were thus hell-bent on disrupting the meeting.
“There were decisions meant to be taken. Council business is going to continue and we’ll not be held to ransom by a few. Their strategy now is to make this council ungovernable. But ours is to deliver services and no one is going to stop us‚” Bobani said.
Deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye said on October 27‚ 2016‚ they had sat at a media conference condemning a brawl which had seen DA councillor Rano Kayser smashed across his head with a water jug.
“What we saw today was almost the very same thing that happened in 2016. It was shocking to see seasoned politicians acting in the manner they did.”
Safety and security political head Litho Suka said what transpired was extreme provocation.
“It showed us there are steps to deal with safety and security. We did not want to use the long arm because we’re looking at everyone’s safety in the precinct.”
Mafaya said DA councillor Retief Odendaal had threatened that there would be bloodshed in the council.
She said she would open a case against Odendaal with the police.
“I will attend to that one. No councillor can threaten council chamber in that manner‚” Mafaya said.
DA councillor Nqaba Bhanga likened Mafaya to speaker in parliament Baleka Mbete and said she was the “Baleka Mbete of Nelson Mandela Bay”.
Bhanga said Mafaya showed on Tuesday that she was not a good or impartial speaker and charged that she had switched off all the DA councillors’ microphones.
Bhanga wsaid Mafaya had misinterpreted Odendaal’s intention when he had approached her and asked her to remove the security officials in the chamber because they wanted to harm DA councillors. “That is the bloodshed he meant.”
“The speaker put up armed Metro police in chambers to physically hurt us [DA councillors]‚ something that the ANC never experienced when they were in the opposition. It was a genuine appeal by Retief.
“We are dealing with a speaker who is not credible and truthful… How do you spin this?” Bhanga questioned.