In a word: Intriguing
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Drewan Baird. Oudtshoorn. 7 Augustus 2014. 07h55. Oudtshoorn Municipality (OM) appears to have convinced Mr Justice Owen Rogers about the difference between “items 4 and 14” – it’s a long story, but in a nutshell the argument is about which item is applicable in the removal of the councillors by operation of law.
OM also scored two distinct concessions from the DA:
1) That the actions of the disciplinary committee was not in bad faith; and 2) That the signing of the attendance record and withdrawing before the business of council is concluded constitutes absence.
The only question remaining after these quite spectacular concessions by the DA, should be… “What are we doing in court!?”
I am of the opinion, as I have expressed in my previous post, albeit in tones sardonic, that OM is fighting an uphill battle in this matter, but I add that it is also a supremely consequential battle and one that Oudtshoorn should be fighting… Because no provincial or national politician wants OM to win this case. Because a ruling in favour of OM will severely curtail the rather unconstitutional – at least in spirit, and read holistically – power of MEC’s over municipal councils.
“No provincial or national politician” means just that: No ANC, no DA, no whatever politician.
And herein lies the tragicomic reality of the “Battle for Oudtshoorn”: That Oudtshoorn’s ratepayers and residents think that local powers control the combat; and that it’s about Oudtshoorn.
And, much more importantly, that the municipality is fighting the DA. The DA is but a minor irritation in the Battle. The actual enemy is much stronger, and more able.
This is a matter of grave concern to me personally, and a major reason for my current involvement in several municipalities, as I am of the political view that people should govern themselves. My position is long established on this blog: I have promoted independent candidates and an independent balance of power in municipalities for many years.
Councillors should be accountable to their constituents directly. Constituents should not be subjected to soi disant decisions by politicians seeking nothing but personal power by promoting and effecting power for their parties.
That municipal councils are autonomous is a fallacy. The situation demands correction. The matters in which the Oudtshoorn Municipality featured since June last year, speak directly to the point of autonomy. Eventually, the third tier will be autonomous. And then political change will have a chance.
As for right now…
When the hearing was concluded on Tuesday afternoon, Rogers instructed that written submissions on two quite obscure legal points pertaining to the lawfulness of the meetings from which the 12 councillors were absent, be submitted by Friday, August 8 – tomorrow.
Mene mene tekel upharsin, and all that.
But many walls today are covered in washable paint.