Unit to clamp down on chaos

The City of Tshwane is setting up an 80 to 100-strong unit to clamp down on unruly councillors who disrupt council work.

Some of these may be drawn from the current Tshwane metro police department (TMPD) staff, Member of the Mayoral Committee Cilliers Brink revealed this week. This follows a council resolution last week that approved the establishment of such a unit.

It followed a long history of disruptions and even violence at council meetings since the DA-led administration took over after the local elections in August last year.

The disruption of the Mayor’s State of the Nation Address (Soca) by protesting councillors on 6 April proved to be the last straw, and now the administration wants to put in place measures to remove and discipline councillors who break the rules.

Brink emphasised that, with the council resolution only just having been passed, details of the unit were still being thrashed out, and developments were at an early stage.

However, he could provide a few broad brush strokes on the issue.

The unit will be housed in the office of the Speaker, and the personnel will be under the control of the Speaker, but – with his overview of City functions as MMC for Corporate and Shared Services – Brink is aiding the Speaker in setting up the unit.

ALSO READ: NEWSFLASH: Chaos in Tshwane council

As the Speaker is politically neutral, this satisfied political constraints, said Brink.

It represented a separation of judicial and executive powers.

“The Speaker can order the unit to act against councillors of any political party, and they would have to act,” he said.

Brink did not foresee that the unit would be in place for the next monthly council meeting, at the end of April.

“We don’t want to rush things, we don’t want to get things wrong,” said Brink.

As far as he knew, the protection service was a new concept and he was not aware of any similar unit operating at any other municipalities.

However, the Rules of Council made provision for such a unit, which was referred to as an “orderly unit” in the Rules.

“There are two possibilities of how we will staff the unit,” said Brink.

“We will either advertise for staff, or we’ll transfer some of the metro police staff there, as a secondment. There are budgetary implications of employing new staff.

“It will affect the interim budget which is currently out for public feedback.

ALSO READ: Chaos at State of the Capital Address

“So drawing staff from the metro police department looks like the practical thing to do at this stage.

“Also, we actually have excessive staff numbers in the metro police at the moment.

“In 2015/16, the previous administration appointed 1 800 new recruits.

“This was not budgeted for and not done in a procedurally correct way.

“It is actually unauthorised expenditure, and the Auditor General has raised this issue.

“But now we sit with these people. We’re not going to dismiss them. They’re in the system, they have received training, we’ll see how we can use them.”

The City was looking at the cheapest options for creating and maintaining the orderly unit, he said.

“We don’t really want personnel and resources dedicated to this, but unfortunately we have to act while the ANC makes concerted efforts to disrupt council with violence or threats of violence.

“There is one ANC councilor who has threatened the lives of both DA and EFF female councilors.

“We have tried to take action against him, but he just comes back and behaves like a hooligan.

“With the current situation, the chaos and disruptions, the will of the voters cannot be implement, so we have to take action.

“In normal circumstances, we would not have to do this but we have to now, because some ANC councillors apparently do not know how to handle the loss of power.”

Another item at last week’s council meeting concerned the future of the TMPD Chief Steven Ngobeni, who Mayor Solly Msimanga charged had defied his order to remove ANC councillros who would not let him deliver his speech.

ALSO READ: Tshwane moves against unruly councillors

The police chief issue was debated “in committee” at the council meeting, from which members of the media were barred (as council is permitted to do for staff matters), so details of the council debate on the matter are sketchy.

However, the City released a statement shortly after the debate.

“Following comprehensive discussions, the Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Solly Msimanga, today announces that the City has reached and agreed separation with the TMPD’s Chief, Steven Ngobene,” they said.

“This agreement was reached by the City manager, in consultation with the mayor, following the irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between Ngobeni and the City of Tshwane.”

His deputy, Jenny Malan, has been appointed as acting chief.

Mayoral spokesperson Samkelo Mgobozi said that details of the severance package would not be revealed, as it was a staff matter, “but it would have budgetary implications”.

The agreement contained a confidentiality clause which prevents Ngobeni from revealing details.

ALSO READ: DA and EFF councillor allegedly assaulted in council meeting

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Vivien van der Sandt

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