Bitou is once again without a legitimate mayor.
On 16 April the Bitou council passed a motion to unseat Lobese as mayor and ANC deputy mayor Gcabayi became acting mayor. Another council meeting was held on 4 May to vote for the new executive mayor, with DA Councillor Bill Nel and ANC Councillor Sandiso Gcabayi as the two candidates. It resulted in a tie vote of 6 DA to 6 ANC, since the “Kingmaker” Lobese did not attend the meeting. Legislation requires that under such circumstances a re-vote must be held within 6 days.
A second vote for mayor was taken on 31 May and DA Cllr Bill Nel won since Cllr Lobese voted with the DA on a promise that he would become Speaker. A vote of no confidence to remove Speaker Wildeman and Deputy Mayor Gcabayi was also tabled, with the DA and AUF Lobese voting for Cllr Lobese as the new Speaker and DA Cllr Ndayi as Deputy Mayor. The ANC did not attend the meeting.
The ANC councillors then applied to the High Court for an urgent interdict to overturn the decision. They argued that the DA had failed to give the required six days notice of a special council meeting per the Rules of Order and so the meeting and its decisions were unlawful.
The ANC and DA reached a settlement agreement on 2 June and it was made an order of the court by agreement. The effect of the agreement was that a new meeting be called at which ‘the election of the Mayor shall be the first order of business’ after the disposal of preliminary issues.
The council meeting was called for 8 June. When it convened, Speaker Wildeman introduced a motion that, ahead of the election, Mr Lobese should be suspended as a councillor pending the outcome of the criminal investigation into his conduct. The proposal was, it seems, unlawful: the power to suspend a Councillor vests not in the Council, but in the MEC.
Wildeman motivated this proposal by referring to the findings in the Provincial Forensic Investigation Report into misconduct in Bitou commissioned by the MEC. (An analysis of this report can be found on our website under “Forensic Report: Failure to Take Action – Annexure A).
Rightly or wrongly, Lobese believed he was obliged to recuse himself from the deliberations and did so. As a result, the vote proceeded on party lines and so produced a tie. The Speaker exercised his power to break the tie by a casting vote, and the suspension was ratified.
The ensuing vote for mayor was once again a tie – DA Cllr Nel 6, ANC Cllr Gcabayi 6. Deadlock ensued since, in such matters, the Speaker has no casting vote. A fresh election will be held on 17 June and, in the meantime, the ANC continues in power.
The mayoral seat has become a throne of games.