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COJ parties consider legal action against Speaker Vasco da Gama over a secret ballot vote

Following a shut down of Joburg City Council last Friday, the attempt to elect a chair of chairs was again disrupted this week. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency

Following a shut down of Joburg City Council last Friday, the attempt to elect a chair of chairs was again disrupted this week. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency

Published Jan 20, 2022

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THE ANC and other opposition parties in the City of Joburg appear likely to go to court to challenge Speaker Vasco da Gama’s insistence that the upcoming elections for Section 79 committee chairs will be held through a show of hands.

However, a decision to go to court may be decided by a planned meeting of these opposition parties over the weekend. All will depend on whether all the parties find each other on whether it is feasible for them to approach the court jointly as opposition parties in council.

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Yesterday, Mpho Moerane – the ANC caucus leader in the City of Joburg – did not rule out court action but said they were planning to hold a meeting with the EFF and other minority parties such as the African Independent Congress (AIC), the United Democratic Movement (UDM), Al Jama Ah, Good Party and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania to strategise for the next council meeting scheduled for January 27.

This week all these parties staged a walkout after Da Gama insisted that the election of chair of chairs – which ultimately went to Cope caucus leader Colleen Makhubele – was going to be through a show of hands.

The opposition parties made numerous calls to Da Gama to allow for a secret ballot saying he and Mayor Mpho Phalatse were elected through a secret ballot.

After Da Gama refused them their wish, these opposition parties also withdrew their nomination for the chairpersons of 17 Section 79 committee positions. This means that the committees will now be led by the DA-led coalition government which include the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Cope, Freedom Front Plus (FF+), the IFP and the Patriotic Alliance (PA). The PA was the latest party to be part of the coalition, apparently over the fallout between its national leadership public spat with the EFF leader Julius Malema.

The EFF also had initially voted DA into power in Joburg but in the past weeks switched allegiances to the ANC.

Commenting on the upcoming planned meeting of opposition parties, Moerane said they hoped that they would come to a mutual understanding on their approaches at the next council meeting.

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“We are not going to act as a majority party in council. We are going to meet with the minority parties and listen to them as equals. We’ve been in this battle together to fight for a secret ballot for the key positions in council. We are going to look into several items and legal action is one of the issues we may consider,” Moerane said.

A similar view was earlier expressed by minority parties leader and AIC councillor Margaret Arnolds who said the minority parties were likely to meet and consider an option of a legal challenge against Da Gama’s decision.

“We are going to get a legal opinion before approaching the courts to overturn the decision. The Speaker wants us to agree with him if he rewrites the rules of council,” Arnolds said.

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However, the EFF in Joburg was more blunt on the matter confirming that the opposition parties had already met and strategised on their next course of action.

EFF Joburg regional secretary Muzi Tshabalala insisted that the next council meeting will be “a different ball game altogether” but declined to explain himself clearly on the matter.

Tshabalala was adamant that they would still demand that the election of Section 79 committee chairs be held through a show of hands.

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As for Da Gama, the 17 committees chairpersons are set to be held by members of the DA-led coalition saying the fact that the opposition parties withdrew their nomination, there won't be any need for elections.

“They have withdrawn their nomination. The deadline for the nomination was on January 17. We will not call for new nominations,” Da Gama said.

He confirmed that the PA was part of the DA-led coalition and is set to secure three chairperson seats in Section 79 committees.

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Political Bureau

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