Timing couldn’t have been better (or more bizarre). This morning, within half an hour of posting ‘Will COPE’s Lekota Stop the Bitou Takeover by Recalling Councillor Adam van Rhyner’, an email popped in my box saying that COPE had suspended Van Rhyner for giving his swing vote to the ANC.
Theoretically, COPE’s errant councillor is out and they throw their weight behind the DA, keeping them in power. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that which is why it’s taken me until late afternoon to deliver this blog.
The heart of the problem would be dysfunction in COPE. The battle between its leaders, Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa, has been highly publicised the past 4 years. Initially, the organisation’s structure was similar to the ANC’s but Lekota took the party on a path to centralisation so that power rested in the National Congress Committee (which remains loyal to Lekota).
The legal adviser for COPE was tasked with rewriting the powers so that they returned to their original structure. That has never been passed. In the meanwhile, she, like many others, especially Shilowa’s supporters, have defected to the ANC. Lekota reacted in the opposite direction, entering into a deal with Helen Zille whereby COPE would vote with the DA in hung councils nationwide. In Bitou (a.k.a. Plettenberg Bay), COPE’s Adam van Rhyner did the opposite by allying with the ANC.
The consequence was this letter which, in itself, adds more chaos to an already chaotic story (i will explain further below):
Here it gets very tricky and i stand to be corrected when i say that for the suspension letter to be valid it would have to be authorised by a member of COPE’s Congress National Committee (CNC). Undoubtedly the likes of Theuns Botha or Donald Grant asked Lekota to send such. For Lekota, that isn’t a simple process as Councillor Adam Van Rhyner will be entitled to a disciplinary process which means litigation costs. This would be a problem for COPE if it’s true that this fragmented party is experiencing financial difficulties.
The letter is sent by Xolela Mjonondwana, the Secretary of the Congress Provincial Committee (not the Congress National Committee). Ironically, the Congress Provincial Committee was aligned to Shilowa during the feud with Lekota and Mjonondwana was a signatory, in 2013, to the letter announcing the dissolving of COPE’s alliance with the DA due to DA ‘bullying’ – who said that politics doesn’t have a sense of humor:)
This suspension also needs to be seen in the light of the rumours that COPE councillors have also been recalled in the Hessequa and Oudtshoorn municipalities only for the Municipal Managers to be hamstrung once they received a letter from a different person in COPE overruling it i.e. battles may still be ongoing within COPE.
Van Rhyner has unfortunately been unreachable for comment but may simply turn up for work on Monday. There may even be legal challenges over the DA Mayor and Speaker’s illegal actions during the course of these events. Somewhere down the line, it’s possible that Bitou’s ratepayers will return to their regular suffering of having to pay for the Municipality’s court battles.
Regards the ANC’s takeover of Bitou Municipality, there’s no clear answer and, for now, life in Plettenberg Bay remains as chaotic as always, seemingly politics first and public second.
NB: You can view more Viva South Africa cartoons at Wonkie.com.