Tempers flare in final ordinary council meeting

Die burgerstentrum.

NELSPRUIT – Tempers flared at the Mbombela council’s final ordinary meeting of the year on Thursday. It was attended by the new acting municipal manager, Mr Sello Ditshego, who was introduced to council at the occasion.

The contentious issue was the presentation of the Section 79 reports by oversight committees. There has long been unhappiness among some councillors about the ineffectiveness of the meetings. DA and ANC councillors accused one another of not attending the meetings, resulting in failure to form a quorum.

Mr Werner le Grange said the DA acknowledged the first report to be presented, that of the public safety committee, noting that complying with regulations that oversight was to be done, was not the same as doing oversight. “There is no vigorous scrutiny by the committees,” he said. “The reports are sterile. The point is that we take note of these reports. We comply but we have not done oversight.”

This got the ball rolling, with Cllr Jesta Sidell, council speaker, insisting the matter had to be addressed. She said that recommendations were not attached to the oversight report, despite the committees’ claims that they were not functioning.

Mr Bheki Zulu, acting as mayor in the absence of Cllr Cathy Dlamini, charged that DA councillors had failed to show up for specifically the local economic development (LED) committee meetings.

Mr Jo Koster, chief whip of the opposition, strongly refuted this, adding that it was the duty of councillors to detect problems early, while the expenditure reports from the first quarter have not even been scrutinised. Sidell stepped in, undertaking to peruse the attendance records of the meetings and present them to council in 2014, so that no-one would be offended.

However, it was generally agreed that the absence of members of the mayoral committee at the meetings was a problem. Even at the council meeting, the chair of chairmen was absent. Mr Mandla Msibi, ANC councillor, also pointed out, “The reality is that we did not perform as required”.

Zulu also questioned how meetings could sometimes not be arranged due to clashes. “They are all noted in the corporate calendar,” he said. “Why then arrange another meeting for the same time?”

The other problem noted by councillors was a lack of report back from the executive.

This was a concern, especially regarding the Municipal Public Accounts Committee, of which the speaker noted, “This is a critical committee.

It was to sit because it cuts across all other committees.” Sidell admitted that her office had not been imposing penalties on councillors who failed to attend oversight committee meetings since they would routinely apologise within seven days.

“We need to be straight and honest with one another,” she said. “We have not been doing oversight and it is affecting us all.”

Mireille de Villiers

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