News The African Way

South Africa: Insults fly in Tshwane council

By Kennedy Mudzuli

Pretoria (South Africa) – Political tension between the ANC and opposition DA in the city council reached a new low on Thursday during the debate on last week’s State of the Capital Address.

Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa first told a DA councillor who interjected while he was speaking, that she was just seeking his attention.

Then he described another DA councillor as a serial and pathological liar whose only claim to fame was wearing a bow tie. Just before the council’s acting Speaker Refiloe Kekana closed proceedings, the mayor referred to the debate as “two hours of nothing”.

But during those two hours, Ramokgopa ridiculed the opposition and blasted a “conservative and anti-progress publication”, quoting headlines that previously appeared in the Pretoria News.

To the official opposition, the mayor said he took notes while they were speaking and was waiting for something of substance, but it never came. This, he said, was because all was covered in his speech at Freedom Park last Thursday, leaving the DA with nothing to say.

He also had some unpleasant comments for “a strange friend of the DA” who he said would not survive past the next election, referring to Cope, represented in the council by Tiyiselani Babane.

Ramokgopa then turned his attention to DA councillor Bronwynn Engelbrecht, who had said the city lost a Press Ombudsman case against the publication in question, saying she just wanted his attention. He said he had a wife at home who gave him attention. “She doesn’t have a husband at home to tell her she is beautiful,” he said, and followed that up with a comment about Engelbrecht’s appearance and hair colour.

He mentioned another DA councillor “whose only claim to fame is wearing a bow tie as well as (raising the matter of) PEU Capital Partners” – the city’s former smart prepaid meters contractor.

It was DA councillor Lex Middelberg – who always sports a bow tie – and who told a media briefing the city stood to lose R1.2 billion by terminating the contract for the meters. The mayor has dismissed the figure as a fabrication.

“He makes the point that the city is decaying. He is living in his own world… By default, the first word in his mind is to lie because he cannot find any faults,” Ramokgopa said. “We are pursuing him to demonstrate that he is a pathological liar. We have also taken the publication to the Press Ombudsman.”

Middelberg was handed a letter warning him that his statements during a media briefing on the PEU contract and its impact on the city’s finances could be damaging to the municipality and were being investigated.

Ramokgopa has, on behalf of the city, filed three complaints with the Press Ombudsman against the Pretoria News in the past six months. The latest related to the PEU contract. Ramokgopa said “they (opposition) had nothing to say” because all was covered in his speech. He also indicated the initiatives he mentioned in his speech were not “grand plans” as proclaimed “by the publication” (a reference to the Pretoria News headline), but work that was already in progress.

Ramokgopa told the council the meeting was two hours of nothing, after which Kekana brought down the curtain.

The DA’s Cilliers Brink said if the mayor’s attack on Engelbrecht reflected his attitude on the rights and plight of women, he was clearly not fit to remain in office.

Middelberg said the personal attack on him by Ramokgopa was an act of political cowardice and abuse of privileges by the mayor. “Any other council member who speaks the way he did would be called to order and dealt with by the Speaker,” said the DA finance spokesman.

Curled from Pretoria News

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