Why Maile backtracked on councillors' suspensions

Lebogang Maile.
Lebogang Maile.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

It took a meeting with the SA Local Government Association for Gauteng cooperative governance MEC Lebogang Maile to make an amazing U-turn on his decision to suspend two top DA councilors.

Sowetan has established that senior officials from Salga called Maile's office requesting a meeting after he announced he was suspending Tshwane speaker Katlego Mathebe and DA councilor in Johannesburg, Vasco Da Gama.

Maile announced their suspensions on January 23, accusing them of putting their own personal interest over that of the residents.

But on Monday, Maile released a statement rescinding his decision.

Yesterday, Maile told journalists that his change of tune was due to two court cases which could make his decision questionable.

But sources said the issue was not the two court cases.

"We were not looking at any case law. We were simply looking at the code of conduct for councillors. When a councilor is alleged to have behaved in a manner that is not acceptable there are two things that can happen. There is an obligation on the municipal council itself to investigate the councilor. That is option one. Option two is that where the municipal councilor does not act and investigate the allegation of misconduct, the MEC then has authority to initiate the investigation by appointing a person or a committee to investigate the alleged misconduct," the source said.

He added: "The MEC chose scenario number two but his shortcoming is that he went straight for the sanction without following due process. He needed to have evidence that council had done nothing to investigate the misconduct and should have appointed a person or committee to investigate the misconduct."

Maile told journalists in Sandton that he was not retracting his decision to investigate Mathebe and Da Gama's conduct but was now leaving this at the hands of the two councils to investigate.

He defended his earlier decision, arguing he had no knowledge of the cases that had been before court.

"The letter that was written by the DA to us was quoting two case laws. That is why we had to seek legal counsel. We won't deny that we might have not seen those case studies. Once they were brought to our attention, we then had a discussion with our senior counsel," Maile said.

He said senior counsel went through the two cases and felt there was a "valid point being raised".

The DA has already threatened to take legal action against Maile as it views his action as illegal.

He described Da Gama as a "constitutional delinquent" for attempting to halt a vote for a new mayor of Johannesburg by requesting a legal opinion while councilors already had a majority vote on the matter.

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