Lebogang Maile. Picture: ALON SKUY
Lebogang Maile. Picture: ALON SKUY

Gauteng MEC for co-operative governance & traditional affairs Lebogang Maile on Monday backed down from a legal stand-off with the DA, reversing his earlier decision to suspend two senior councillors of the Johannesburg and Tshwane metros.

The DA took the provincial government to court after Maile suspended the former speaker of the Johannesburg metro, Vasco Da Gama, and his Tshwane counterpart, Katlego Mathebe, for three and six months respectively. Both were suspended without pay.

The suspensions were related to decisions they took as speakers of the respective metropolitan municipalities.  

The suspensions took place as the cities — two of the biggest in SA — have been in turmoil for months while political parties jostle for control of the municipalities. Both municipalities are politically vulnerable as no single party has an outright majority.

Maile invoked a provision in the Municipal Systems Act to justify the suspensions and stuck by his guns to suspend the pair despite a lawyer’s letter from the DA demanding the decisions by rescinded. 

The DA argued that Maile did not have the power to suspend the councillors of his own will and could only investigate and sanction councillors in response to a request by the municipalities. Such a request did not exist. 

The party last week told Maile in the letter that his conduct was “patently unlawful” and was inconsistent with the principle of co-operative governance in the constitution. It said it would seek a personal costs order against the MEC if the matter made its way to urgent proceedings in court. 

The DA had already filed an urgent application in the high court, and the matter was set to be heard on Tuesday. 

On Monday afternoon, however, Maile announced he was reversing the suspensions with immediate effect after he received legal advice in a series of consultations with senior counsel in relation to the DA’s legal action. 

He said he would only address the merits and demerits of reversing Da Gama and Mathebe’s suspensions in a media briefing on Tuesday. 

But while the provincial government will not have to defend itself in the case lodged by the DA, the decision to suspend Mathebe and Da Gama is set to have its own consequences. 

Mike Moriarty, provincial chair of the DA in Gauteng, said Maile was “no doubt” advised that he would lose the case and would have been exposed as “having abused his powers and as being a constitutional delinquent”. 

But Moriarty said it was not enough for Da Gama and Mathebe to have been vindicated by his decision, and that Maile must face consequences. 

He said the two councillors were seeking legal advice on civil action against Maile for impugning their integrity, while the DA in the Gauteng provincial legislature would table a motion to ask for the removal of Maile as MEC. 

mailovichc@businesslive.co.za

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