Tlokwe Speaker must step down, or face Motion of No Confidence

By Joe McGluwa, DA North West Leader:

The Democratic Alliance will today submit to the Tlokwe Council, a motion of no confidence in the Speaker of Tlokwe, Barei Segotso.

Segotso has become an obstacle to the legal functioning of the Tlokwe Council, and an obstacle to executive oversight in council.

It is not tenable that the Speaker of the most prominent council in the province, a figure intended to be the impartial chairperson of all council activities, simultaneously holds high office in the governing party.

She is conflicted by this dual allegiance. She displays persistent partiality, unlawfulness and is a stumbling block to progress in Tlokwe

She has been described by the High Court in a considered judgment as a “thoroughly bad Speaker.”

Segotso has proved while serving as Speaker of Tlokwe that she places herself and her party first which ought alone to disqualify her from continuing as Speaker of the Tlokwe Council.

Therefore today, well before our motion is scheduled for debate in the council, The Democratic Alliance calls on Speaker Segotso to do what is right for the people of Tlokwe, and to step down from her position voluntarily.

This action mirrors action the DA took in Parliament against the bias of Speaker Baleka Mbete. In the National Assembly, Mbete’s conflict between being ANC Chairperson and Speaker led to the DA’s Motion of No Confidence in Mbete last year. Segotso and Mbete are pages from the same book, and it is in Mbete’s footsteps that Segotso missteps today.

The call for Speaker Segotso to step down or face a No Confidence Motion comes after Segotso unilaterally imposed the second consecutive postponement of a Special Council meeting this week, while failing to provide any reasons for doing so. Segotso does not respond to any correspondence addressed to her by members of her Council, and does not give reasons for her actions when requested.

Segotso also fails to convene ordinary council meetings.

The Tlokwe Council has always met on a once-monthly schedule, but Segotso is now blocking this and is delaying the work of the municipality. Progress in Tlokwe cannot be made while the Council is kept shut by the Speaker.

Currently Tlokwe faces urgent outstanding matters that the administration and the Executive Mayor must answer to. But by continuously postponing, and refusing to schedule meetings, Segotso is protecting those in the Municipality who must answer to council.

The Municipal Manager Dr Nomathemba Blaai-Mokgethi is also set to be grilled on why she defied a multi-party committee of Tlokwe council and signed two contracts without a council resolution and which were not budgeted for, yet Segotso is delaying this investigation and is protecting her political allies.

The DA can therefore today also announce that we have laid formal criminal charges with the SAPS against the Municipal Manager of Tlokwe. These charges arise from the Municipal Manager entering into contracts for the supply of paraffin at grossly over-inflated contract prices, among other dubious contracts. The following criminal offences are alleged in the charges laid by the DA against the Municipal Manager:

  • Contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities. Act No. 12 of 2004
  • Contravention of Section 173 of the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act, Act 56 of 2003
  • Contravention of Section 119 of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, Act 32 of 2000
  • Contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, Act 121 of 1998

These contracts relate to the provision of paraffin at a rate of twice the regulated price per litre, which the Municipal Manager has now burdened upon the Municipality unauthorisedly. These paraffin contracts will cost the municipality in the region of R55 million per year more than they ought to.

The Municipal Manager has further bound the Municipality into the dubious contract for a Smart Metering System which may cost the municipality up to R90 million, and which was entirely unauthorised.

Both of these contracts were signed without Council approval and answers must be given, yet the Speaker is blocking the accountability mechanisms of the Tlokwe Council.

The DA has also learned today that the National Treasury sent a letter to the Tlokwe Municipal Manager and Executive Mayor, ordering them to not enter into any agreements or contracts for paraffin and Smart Metres, specifically. Orders which were intentionally ignored.

It is therefore clear that Speaker Segotso has a lot to keep swept under the carpet in Tlokwe, and may explain why the Municipal Manager and Speaker are currently trying to obtain a R75 million loan from the Development Bank of South Africa.

The approach of Speaker Segotso to unilaterally postponing critically important council meetings flies in the face of the judgement of Justice Niel Tuchten of the North Gauteng High Court, nearly two years ago. The court found back then that it is trite in law that a good reason must exist for the postponement of a properly convened council meeting.

Segotso was the unsuccessful Respondent in that matter, and therefore is well aware of the Court’s ruling. In that case she attempted to postpone a meeting via text message, when the meeting that she had convened posed a threat to the ANC’s political objectives. The court overturned her postponement and set it aside.

The DA believes that the current and unrelenting attack on democracy by Segotso serves to reduce the Tlokwe Council to a mockery and that democracy is gradually being eroded into a system where decisions are taken behind closed doors, by deployees of the ANC rather than by members of Council.

In this last 12 months the DA has accumulated proof of numerous critical letters and other correspondence addressed to the Speaker, which have all been utterly ignored and treated with contempt. The DA has written to the Speaker on important matters such as consistently late notice of meetings being issued, irregular postponement of meetings and council meetings, unlawfully reconvening of meetings on almost no notice, her disregard for the rules and refusal to hear reasonable submissions, and the deliberate exclusion of the DA from certain critical committee meetings.

Most critically, and most shamefully, Speaker Segotso has ignored sincere and frank correspondence from the DA about real issues affecting the lives of residents, who are desperate for help from the municipal council. Segotso has displayed contempt for the council, the rules, the law and worse; contempt for the people of South Africa.

We give Speaker Segotso the opportunity to do the least dishonourable things, and to step down. If she does not, we will move for her to be unceremoniously removed from office by way of a motion of no confidence.

In the 2016 elections the DA is set on winning Tlokwe, where a fair and impartial Speaker will be elected to serve the needs of the people, rather than serving the needs of one party; as Segotso currently does.

The Tlokwe Council must be home to vigorous debate and action to improve the lives of our residents. Barei Segotso stands in the way of municipal good governance.

She has lost the confidence of the vast majority of the opposition. She must vacate her position in the interests of Tlokwe and our democracy.