The locked doors of Bitou Municipality (fondly called Plettenberg Bay by holidaymakers) gave frustrated citizens and the majority of councillors a cold welcome this morning. The odd action was requested by Mayor Memory Booysen who had cited expected opposition violence in a letter to Municipal Manager Allen Paulse.
On their arrival, the attitude of the 7 opposition Councillors from the ANC and COPE switched from indignation to amusement that they were a lonely ‘mob’. They were greeted by members of the SAPS who apparently soon dispersed with the realisation that there was no need for alarm.
The unexpected and illegal action of the DA’s Mayor Memory Booysen seemed to be a reaction to a letter Speaker Annelise Olivier had received from the ANC’s Chief Whip, Mphakamisi Mbali. Mbali, along with fellow ANC politicians and Deputy Mayor Adam Van Rhyner (who is COPE), had called for a vote of no confidence in the Mayor, Speaker and Deputy Mayor and, upon acceptance of said motions, stated their intention to fill those positions by vote. The sting in the message was that Van Rhyner’s swing vote, that had given the DA power the past 3 years, had swung in the opposite direction.
The action of the Mayor was illegal in that politicians are not permitted to interfere with the administration of a municipality (it carries a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment). There was more illegality in that the tabling of the opposition’s motion requires six working day’s notice (which would fall on Tuesday, July 1). The Speaker correctly responded by hand-delivered letter with relevant law followed by “your request is defective and cannot be acceded to.”
The more immediate question than what will happen on Tuesday is why Municipal Manager Allen Paulse agreed, without proof of threat, to close the doors? Secondly, why did the Speaker suddenly cancel the Council meeting that was to be held this coming Monday?
Whilst politicians jostle for power, the public were the losers. With no access to Bitou Municipality, citizens were denied their final day to pay rates without fine. Similarly, developers were unable to use the final day of amnesty to submit building plans.