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Validity of Polokwane municipality meeting threatened by court action

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The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Polokwane Municipality is considering court action after the municipality’s first ordinary council meeting for the year ended in chaos when the DA and Vryheidsfront Plus walked out in protest after a marathon session of more than 12 hours on Tuesday.
Acting DA Caucus Leader, Franco Marx said the party may bring an application to the court to declare the proceedings at the council meeting invalid as a result of Speaker, Mariri Ralefatane’s refusal to allow speakers from opposition parties to debate matters on the agenda and make proposals. “It took more than four hours only to approve the minutes of previous meetings and to re-visit and debate matters arising. Councillors were allowed to speak more than once on the same matter and no time limits were enforced. The whole meeting was characterised by points of order and no progress was made. Before we walked out around 21:30, Speaker ignored our attempts to be recognised and simply moved on to the next items on the agenda,” Marx said and added that it is irregular to proceed to the next item before affording all councillors an opportunity to debate on a matter.

Polokwane Executive Mayor, Thembi Nkadimeng pictured on the new audio visual system as she addresses the council meeting. Next to her is Polokwane Chief Whip, Mamedupi Teffo.

New audio visual system introduced
The municipality also made use of its newly acquired audio visual system with translating capacity for the first time. The system automatically identifies speakers as they are allowed to address council and projects their images on monitors that are strategically placed.
Councillors were briefed how to use the facility at the start of the meeting. Early in the morning, Marx took his turn to test the system, and it became evident that it could manage to translate from Sepedi to English but not from Sepedi to Afrikaans. Executive Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng indicated that the municipality are making arrangements to secure the services of a Sepedi/Afrikaans translator and that other languages could be included at a later stage if necessary.

Polokwane municipal councillors captured during the council meeting. At the back are Democratic Alliance (DA) councillors Jacques Joubert and Franco Marx.

Media, public blocked out of deliberations
One of the shortcomings of the system that was identified is the fact that it does not provide for the media and members of the public to utilise the translation facility. Access to the facility is provided by earphones at the desks of councillors and are not available in the public gallery.
Agendas for the meeting were provided to the media close to three hours after the meeting started, and only after it was brought to the attention of the Speaker and it was ordered that documents be printed forthwith. The agendas that were eventually availed, were incomplete and made it very difficult for the media to accurately report on matters that are in public interest. Spokesperson for the municipality, Thipa Selala was unable to comment on the matter at time of going to print and Ralefatane declined to comment when approached on Wednesday morning.

Story, photos & video: BARRY VILJOEN
>>barryv.observer@gmail.com