Fresh off Twitter: Round 2 – the ANC again abuses power in eThekwini

by The Editor

FEATURE: Round 2 – more proof of how the ANC in eThekwini abuses power and undermines democracy, all of it fresh off Twitter where it has just happened. Read the summary and timelines of four DA councillors who describe how a Council meeting was hijacked, proper procedure ignored, oversight suppressed and the ANC’s agenda pushed through regardless. We don’t spend enough time focussing on what happens in local councils, if eThekwini is anything to go by, we have a lot to worry about.

Fresh off Twitter: Round 2 – the ANC again abuses power in eThekwini

By: Gareth van Onselen

30 July 2012

You will recall the previous debacle in the eThekwini Council, where the ANC used its majority to turn a sports trip into a junket? Well, according to the Twitter timelines of four DA’s councillors, they are at it again. The following has just occurred:

The eThekwini Council sat this morning. In fact, it is still sitting. It was presented with an agenda that contained a series of items which had not gone through the council’s standing committees first. Council procedures demands that this happens – it’s how agenda items are scrutinised before appearing before the Council. If this did not happen, hugely complex or controversial things could be placed on the agenda and without the parties on Council – the public’s representatives – having proper time to understand and analyse them, and simply be pushed through by the ANC majority. The unseen items had, however, been seen by the EXCO which, although also dominated by the ANC, gave the impression to those opposition parties on it they would indeed be referred by the committees (EXCO: ANC 6, DA 2, MF1, NFP 1). In turn, those smaller parties not on the EXCO would not have seen the items at all, let alone fleetingly. Clearly the ANC had other plans and didn’t care one way or the other.

In short, a series of items were placed before the council only ever seen by the ANC.

There was, however, one single solitary item that was on the agenda and had been through the proper procedure – a question from the DA’s Mbali Ntuli about whether public money was being misused to promote the ANC’s centenary celebrations. In fact, this item had been on the agenda for two and a half months. It had already been deferred three times. Formally, this was the only thing to be discussed.

The DA, of course objected to all the other new items. And, to the ANC mayor’s credit, he agreed. It was procedurally incorrect and the matters at hand should be first referred back to the Standing Committees, before the Council voted. The ANC, however, was having none of it and a 10 minutes recess was called. That 10 minute recess became 40 minutes and when the ANC returned, it had clearly decided to overrule its own mayor and force the items through.

To add to the confusion, the Speaker suddenly decided to announce, in the middle of the vote, that he had a recieved a letter from the APC, in which it had decided to fire one of its Councillors. In the middle of the vote. Truly bizarre timing. This, however, was also overturned and defered to be dealt with at a later time. But it hardly contributed to establishing some kind of decorum.

The upshot of all of this is that every opposition party was forced to oppose every one of the items. How could they support them when they had not had time to read or study them? The process was entirely undemocratic. One by one every party stood by the DA, each withdrawing their Speakers on the items and requesting their names be recording as voting in opposition to them. But the ANC, using their majority, pushed them all through regardless and so they were all adopted.

In the meantime, the one existing item on the agenda – the only one procedurally correct, the DA question about possible misuse of public money – was ignored, not answered and again deferred.

It is a classic example of the ANC centralising power and by-passing best democratic practice. Essentially it overlooked the entire Council. It convinced the policies by itself in EXCO, introduced them without warning or consideration (thus nullifying any democratic debate or discussion) and then forced the council to vote, using its majority to approve them all.

This is not how a democracy works. It’s ambush politics and the hallmark of authoritarianism and a deep and fundamental disdain for best democratic practice, oversight and accountability.

You can follow the entire affair in the collective tweets of the four DA councillors – Warwick Chapman, Nicole Graham, Mbali Ntuli and Martin Meyer – in chronological order below, from the bottom to the top.

Follow their accounts for more. The meeting is still unfolding and there is more drama.

@warwickchapman: 12 items in a row voted against by opposition because ANC forced them through without allowing discussion in committees #durbancouncil
@meyermartinsa: Unity from the opposition parties against ANC misuse of power and disregard of due process good day for democracy.
@warwickchapman: ANC’s authoritarian approach to our ‘multiparty democracy’ clearly evident today. Arrogant in the face of a united opposition #durbancouncil
@mbalimcdust: Well now we are discussing matters that have been brought to us in a procedurally incorrect manner. No comm has seems them. #fb
@warwickchapman: IFP, NFP, ACDP, MF have stood with the DA and withdrawn their speakers and will vote against the items in question. #durbancouncil
@warwickchapman: Voting continues, ANC +2 vote against our motion and is defeated. Puts us in a difficult position now where we must vote against all items.
@mbalimcdust: We have gone to a vote. Entire opposition votes with us but the ANC including mayor votes against. 72-103 #fb
@warwickchapman: Mayor reports that councillor Ngiba will be allowed to continue to participate until the IEC advises otherwise. #durbancouncil
@mbalimcdust: Back to business and the vote.
@mbalimcdust: The meeting has not even started. My one and only question for the day remains unanswered. #fb
@meyermartinsa: After 2 hours we are still debating if we should debate point 1!
@mbalimcdust: Well it seems as though this meeting is going to be long. Breakfast seems so long ago. Sigh. #fb
@warwickchapman: Chief Whip Cllr Stanley Xulu, recognizing the absolute chaos, calls meeting with party whips and mayor in middle of vote #durbancouncil
@mbalimcdust: Meeting stopped again in the middle of a vote. All party whips have been called into another emergency caucus with the chief whip #fb
@warwickchapman: Logie getting slammed for embarrassing APC Cllr Ngiba by announcing his exclusion from council 2 hours into meeting! #durbancouncil
@meyermartinsa: Clearly the ANC caucus voted against their own mayor again, and he is made to change his reasonable stance. #durbancouncil
@NicoleGraham031: IFP: “We have no representation on EXCO and as such don’t know what’s going on here.” Everyone laughs. #durbancouncil
@NicoleGraham031: Confusion now reigns over the APC’s Cllr Ngiba. ANC: “If he’s here, he must vote. If he’s not a cllr, he should not be here.” #durbancouncil
@mbalimcdust: The City manager is asking the cllr to basically leave. #fb There is uproar in the house.
@warwickchapman: Slap bang in the middle of the vote, speaker adds that APC Cllr Ngiba has been withdrawn in writing by his party. Chaos. #durbancouncil
@meyermartinsa: ANC is continuing to marginalise the standing committees and to try and centralise power in EXCO. Very worrying indeed. #durbancouncil
@mbalimcdust: The speaker has just announced that one of the ANC cllrs Ngiba has been removed from office and cannot vote #awks #fb ANC very upset at mo.
@NicoleGraham031: The APC have delivered a letter to the Speaker saying their councillor has been removed. His vote has just been erased. Awks! #durbancouncil
@mbalimcdust: The ANC has over turned the mayor’s decision. We are now being made to consider the items in this council meeting, right now! #fb
@NicoleGraham031: We’re back from caucuses. The ANC’s ’10 minutes’ became forty. #durbancouncil
@mbalimcdust: It’s been 30 mins of our 10 min recess. All the pop parties still waiting for the ANC #fb
@mbalimcdust: We are a council under investigation for flouting process and yet here we are doing it. We are back in chambers waiting for the ANC #fb
@mbalimcdust: The ANC has called for a recess #fb
@mbalimcdust: Mayor says he does not think this is a big deal. Nobody is going 2die but fine we can refer them back,this is procedure not a favour #fb
@mbalimcdust: The mayor has agreed with us 12 out of 17 questions need to be referred back. #durbancouncil #fb
@mbalimcdust: Standing committees were cancelled. Smaller parties agree with us they are seeing all these items for the first time #fb
@mbalimcdust: Our reps on exco raised this matter this morning. Council did not take this into consideration & still tried to get us to vote #fb
@warwickchapman: All opposition parties with exception of two votes supporting DA’s motion to refer items to stadium committees for full debate #ethekwini
@warwickchapman: ANC chairpersons cancelled standing committee meetings last week & now requires full council to accept items considered by only 10 on exco.
@mbalimcdust: Cllrs r held accountable 4the decisions council take. They go thru standin committees. ANC wants us 2pass matters we have not discussed #fb
@warwickchapman: eThekwini council brought to a halt because standing committees are being bypassed – City is run by 205 councillors not just 10 on Exco.
@mbalimcdust: Oh boy council is at it again! #durbancouncil #fb
@warwickchapman: Mayor Nxumalo admits last meeting of council was a problem. That one issue derailed the meeting. Requests more , “parliamentary” approach.
@warwickchapman: At the eThekwini Council meeting in the Durban City Hall. Let’s see if we can maintain some decorum and get some work done this time.

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