The African National Congress (ANC) in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on Friday said that it is “pleased with its performance and its significant contribution towards the work of Council and its capability to fulfill its constitutional obligations”.
“This year’s session, although often soiled by flagrant mischief and other persistent corrosive conduct, has generally been characterised by robust multiparty debates and lively inter-party political engagements,” said Gift Ngqondi, ANC Nelson Mandela Bay Regional Spokesperson.
“As the Official Opposition Party, we have endeavoured successfully to ensure the continued functionality and effectiveness of the Council, despite determined efforts to erode its decorum and collapse it.
“As part of our oversight work, in all committees, council sittings and constituency work, we have remained unyielding in our on-going advancement of the goals of the Freedom Charter, which is expressed in the NDP, as our guiding programme for the radical economic transformation to eradicate unemployment, inequality and poverty.”
Council Debates, Council Work Oversight
Ngqondi said that Council is a critical forum for public debate of important issues, for passing by- laws and policies that must transform the quality of lives of our people and to oversee the work of the executive to ensure quality and efficient delivery of services to all South Africans.
“We have sought to enhance the quality of Council discourse by ensuring that Council rules are strengthened and that Council as a supreme representative of the people is respected.
“The enhancement of the rules has assisted in restoring the decorum of the institution, thereby creating and encouraging environment in which superiority of the arguments, rather than gimmickry and mischief, hold sway,” he described.
“It is important that all of us play by the rules in the interest of promoting a culture of robust debates, the spirit of frank multiparty engagement and sustenance of a fair and equitable space for parties to advance the interests and aspirations of their constituencies.
“A climate of disregard and disrespect for the rules is usually the refuge of those without ideas and thus employ chaos and anarchy to advance their narrow interests.
“We are therefore pleased that most parties in this institution cooperated in ensuring that order is restored and Council effectively discharges its constitutional functions to better the lives of the people.
“We are pleased with the progress pertaining to the process of overhauling of Council rules with a view to bring them into line with our evolving and maturing constitutional democratic order.”
Ngqondi said that to further reinforce the culture of debate on important national issues, which is the lifeblood of any democratic Council, the ANC in the Bay championed the system that ensured that there is an equitable allocation of opportunities for all parties, regardless of their size, to sponsor motions for debate.
“We have intensified our efforts to hold the executive accountable through various Council mechanisms, including within committees, which are the engines of Council; and oversight tools such as oral and written questions, motions, member statements and notices of motions.
“We have continued to surpass any party regarding the advancement of oversight mechanisms such as Members Statements (15), Motions Without Notice (10) and Motions for Debate (12),” he described.
Standard of the Coalition
Ngqondi said that the quality of the Coalition in the Nelson Mandela Bay Council, particularly the Democatic Alliance (DA) – led coaltion, is an on-going concern for the ANC.
“The tactically flawed tendency of the DA to decide for any matter to a debate during the processing of by-laws and motions it disagrees with to manipulate the quorum of the Council is myopic, petty, politically bankrupt and an antithesis to the climate of multiparty democracy as enshrined in our democratic Constitution,” he explained.
“Our Council multiparty system enjoins all political parties to participate meaningfully and actively in the decision-making processes of Council, including in debates and voting on By -Laws and policies tabled before the Council.
“It is inevitable that the DA would differ with the Official Opposition, however, that ought to be expressed through the formal process of Council than trying to silence Official Opposition through voting.”
Ngqondi said that the DA’s tactics of subjecting official opposition “to a vote instead of a debate is tantamount to dereliction of duty, it lets down the people who voted them into Council and it is disruptive to the order of Council”.
“Voters elect these Councillors to participate in the work of Council, not to cowardly decide to take any matter to a vote just because they disagree.
“No self-respecting Majority party anywhere in the world engages in such antics. But that would not be in keeping with the spirit of multiparty democracy, which requires participation of all parties representing diverse aspirations of our population,” he described.
“We will never be distracted by cheap theatrics involving clear mischievousness, anarchy and unruliness consistently displayed in Council meetings.
“As the Official Opposition Party, the ANC will never allow this agenda to collapse this important institution of our constitutional democracy under our watch.
“The law and rules must be applied consistently, fairly, fearlessly and without prejudice to protect this institution from decay.”