GEORGE NEWS - The majority of opposition councillors' refusal to recognise Leon van Wyk as mayor of George has caused severe friction and service delivery delays since his election in May.
Although the walk-outs by the opposition parties which have plagued the digital council meetings over the last few months have ceased - thanks to a court order by the Cape Town High Court - the ANC yet again made it crystal clear during the last meeting on 31 July that they have little regard for Van Wyk's position as mayor of George.
"The so-called mayor is failing us. We don't regard him as mayor," said ANC Councillor Piet van der Hoven. Singing to the same tune, ANC Chief Whip Nomawethu Jantjies-Gushman said, "We can't have any committees from him, because he is not the mayor."
At the meeting Van Wyk again tried to introduce the Article 80 committees to Council for appointment, but to no avail. The moment he started the item, all ANC councillors left the meeting, only returning for the next item.
Van Wyk told George Herald that, since the opposition refuses to give Council a quorum to appoint the committees, they have been unable to do their work since May. "Article 80 committees play an important oversight and monitoring role in all the directorates, and are chaired by a mayoral committee member. The mayoral committee members currently fulfil that role, within certain limits, and without committees.
"I don't take it personally, but the problem is they [the opposition] are paralysing service delivery by attacking the mayoral chair. They are not fulfilling their constitutional duties. The question then arises: what are they being paid for?"
Van Wyk said an internal disciplinary process is underway to address the matter of the missed council meetings.
Barring the ACDP and FF Plus, opposition parties in George have no regard for Van Wyk's position following his election in May.
Following a council meeting on 6 July when opposition councillors were particularly outspoken about the matter, FF Plus Councillor Gert van Niekerk said the situation is untenable.
"The contempt for the mayor [by other opposition parties] is totally undesirable. His guidance is blocked. We recommend that the status of the mayor be brought before the court on an urgent basis, so that the circus can stop, because it serves no purpose to meet like this."
Election process questioned
Opposition parties (excluding the FF Plus and ACDP) are of the opinion that the process followed electing Van Wyk was illegal. PBI Councillor Virgill Gericke - the opposition's mayoral candidate - said they have approached the courts "in order to seek justice regarding the process of the election of mayor". "We believe there are procedural flaws and unfairness in the process," said Gericke.
George DA Constituency Head Geordin Hill-Lewis said Van Wyk's election as mayor was "perfectly correct and lawful".
"It is just the ANC clutching at straws because their plan to take over Council failed. We are not in the slightest bit concerned. If they want to take Council to court, they are welcome to. I doubt they will though, as they have no case," he said.
Van Wyk is generally held in high esteem in George and his election as Mayor was widely welcomed as he is seen as a person who won't tolerate any dirty dealings in local government. The business sector in particular is expecting positive change at the municipality under his leadership.
DA obtained court order
The DA caucus obtained a Cape Town High Court order on 29 June to force all George councillors to attend a council meeting suspended on 28 June, following several walk-outs by the opposition. The tabling of George Municipality's 2020/2021 budget was at stake.
Gericke maintains that the PBI has not been interrupting Council meetings: "We are meeting our constitutional obligation to attend meetings and speak on behalf of our constituencies. The DA Speaker has called many special Council meetings and cancelled or postponed it at short notice. This is to avoid the motions of no confidence against them, because they simply do not have the numbers to win the vote.
"The budget and all other related policies could have been approved earlier this year, but they are playing cowboys and crooks in order not to lose power. The instability in the city is due to the DA's obsession with holding onto power."
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