COUNCILLORS regarded the public gallery with fear and suspicion at the council meeting held last week Thursday.
Members of the public filled the gallery to capacity before the meeting had begun and continued to squeeze closer together as they made space for ‘just one more’.
Most of the people in the gallery had donned IFP regalia for the occasion, and wore similar frowns of general disapproval as they waited for the meeting to begin.
A heavy police presence outside the council chambers did little to quell the mounting apprehension of councillors who recall all too well what happened the last time this many members of the public showed an interest in a council meeting.
They know from experience how difficult it can be to dodge oranges and maas being hurled at them, while blinded by teargas, as they try to flee the chambers.
The meeting began a few minutes after 10am, and after the usual prayer, welcome and apologies, it was time to tackle the thorny issue that drew the crowd to the council chambers.
The ANC had put forward a motion to remove Michael Khumalo as the speaker of the AbaQulusi council.
Before the motion could be tabled or discussed, ANC councilor, TZ Nkosi pleaded for everybody in the gallery to be searched first.
“We are requesting that everybody here is searched. If this does not happen, it puts us at a risk of repeating what we have experienced in the past,” said Cllr Nkosi. “It leaves us wondering, what is the intention of you, as the honourable speaker, as well as the municipal manager, the mayor and the deputy mayor in terms of allowing such things to happen once more in this chamber
“The last time this happened, we witnessed a very terrible situation whereby the gallery was brought down. It may happen again. It is a possibility, and we thought you are going to be considerate enough to avoid history repeating itself. We actually don’t believe this should continue before the gallery members are searched. The police have attempted to come in here and alert you that they need to search people because they also know that if history is repeated, it will be dangerous to all of us here.”
Following a brief adjournment during which the whips of each party discussed Cllr Nkosi’s concerns, Cllr Khumalo reassured the council that nothing was going to happen and promised that everybody was safe.
ANC whip, Maria Mabaso, called Cllr Khumalo a dictator and explained that the reason for the motion to have him removed was that he had arrogantly refused the councillors’ request to host a council meeting on two different occasions.
“On March 8, a petition was signed by 23 AbaQulusi councillors to convene a meeting. On July 2 another councillors’ petition accompanied with a motion was written to the speaker. He did not honour these calls by the majority of councillors in the council. He is in breach of section 29 (2) of the structures act 117 of 1998,” said Cllr Mabaso.
Councillors agreed to vote for Cllr Mabaso’s proposal for Cllr Khumalo to be removed from his position as speaker by show of hands.
All 21 ANC councilors voted to have Cllr Khumalo removed, while the 23 remaining councilors, comprising of the IFP-DA-EFF alliance, voted against.
Political pundits speculate that the results may have been different if Cllr Mabaso had insisted on the voting being done by secret ballot, referring to a rift within the IFP.