Bring your ANC members into line, Cyril urged after Joburg council brawl

Coalition partners appeal to president to intervene before the meeting resumes on Tuesday

17 January 2022 - 18:25
By Nonkululeko Njilo
Councillors indulged in more than four hours of chaos, finger wagging, pushing and shoving inside the chamber.
Image: VELI NHLAPO Councillors indulged in more than four hours of chaos, finger wagging, pushing and shoving inside the chamber.

The multiparty coalition governing the City of Johannesburg has called for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s urgent intervention after a council meeting last week turned violent and left personnel injured.

The first council meeting of the year took place on Friday and was due to elect a chair of chairs and chairpersons of portfolio committees. It ended prematurely after clashes over voting procedures. 

The meeting was postponed to Tuesday, but the coalition partners — who came into power after the ANC lost its outright majority in the November 1 local government polls — fear history might repeat itself if Ramaphosa does not intervene overnight.

Speaking at a media briefing on Monday, FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald lamented the behaviour of ANC and EFF councillors, who were allegedly behind the collapse of the meeting.

He said Ramaphosa ought to bring his members into line, despite the incident taking place at a regional level.

“There is a responsibility on the president. It is his members, his party. He cannot distinguish between local, regional or national,” he said.

Groenewald said the incident should not be viewed as isolated but rather as part of a broader picture that showed what would happen if the same voting patterns were repeated in the 2024.

“The governing power is not willing to hand over [power], which is ironic, because the president, in his weekly newsletter, is appealing to the people of SA and everyone to uphold, protect and preserve the constitutional democracy of SA. But his own members in the city of council don’t do that.

“I appeal to the honourable Ramaphosa that he must intervene immediately before tomorrow and ensure that their members respect the democracy. If he doesn’t do that, he is nothing else but a hypocrite. And SA is looking at the president, if he is a president for words and no action?” he said.

DA leader John Steenhuisen voiced similar sentiments, adding that while serving as deputy president Ramaphosa  “took a very strong line against the behaviour of the EFF in the [parliament’s] chamber and was very vocal around that”.

The PA also lamented the actions of the ANC and EFF councillors.  

“We are against chaos. We stand for the rule of law, and the voting process should take place tomorrow like it has always,” said a party representative. 

But COPE’s Collen Makhubela dismissed talks of instability within the council. 

“This council is a first of its kind, and we don’t want to take that away from it. There are no cracks, there is no instability, there are no issues within the coalition. What we witnessed [last week] is the other side that has lost, that does not have numbers and is trying to disrupt the progress of this coalition,” she said.

ActionSA’s John Moody was also critical of the ANC councillors’ conduct, dismissing them as “nothing but a bunch of hoodlums who are desperate to cling on to power”.

The ANC has since written to Gauteng cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Lebogang Maile, raising concerns over council speaker Vasco da Gama’s alleged “refusal” to conduct the vote in the form of a secret ballot.

Maile has reportedly reached out to Da Gama, asking for clarity on the events leading to the collapse of the meeting.

Groenewald reiterated that the ANC was refusing to hand over power after taking a beating during the November 1 local government elections.                 

“In 2024, we believe it is possible for the ANC to lose power. The question is, on a national level, will they be willing to hand over power? That’s the thing. If you can allow on a regional level that people can disrupt, that they use violence and they disrespect democracy, how can you then have the expectation that on a national or provincial level that the ANC will hand over power?” he said.