Punches flew as chaos erupted at an eThekwini Municipality full council meeting on Tuesday when councillors of the EFF attacked city security officials.
This was after security was called in to escort members of the EFF out of the council chamber after they were asked to leave when they became unruly.
In video footage being circulated online, a security guard can be seen being assaulted by at least three EFF councillors. He manages to escape the blows as a burly colleague comes to his aid.
The EFF had earlier demanded the city manager, Musa Mbhele, leave the meeting over allegations that the city had failed to spend R1.9 billion of a conditional grant allocated to repair infrastructure and had thus had to return the money to the National Treasury.
The eThekwini mayor had told the council moments earlier that the money was cut due to the implementation of the national government’s austerity measures.
“It is important to indicate that recently the National Treasury issued a circular on strict cost-cutting and austerity measures in national and provincial government,” Kaunda said.
“In addition, as per the communication from the National Department of Human Settlements, a Cabinet decision was taken to cut the Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG) and the Informal Settlement Upgrading Partnership Grant (ISUPG) allocations for the 2023/2024 financial year. This is not unique to eThekwini, as other metros in the country are also affected. There is a proposed cut of R142.4 million for the eThekwini allocation. It should also be noted that eThekwini Municipality has always spent 100% of the USDG and ISUPG grants. We are the only leading metro in the Republic of South Africa who has spent its grant in full,” Kaunda said.
He added, however: “It is correct that the municipality applied to the National Treasury for the rollover of unspent conditional grants of R1.88 billion, of which R1.5 billion relates to the Municipal Disaster Recovery Grant (MDRG). It should be noted that the R1.5 billion was only received in March 2023, three months before the end of our financial year, and the city was advised by Cogta that a rollover application for the MDRG is not required”.
Despite the explanation, the EFF demanded Mbhele leave, putting the blame on him.
Visvin Reddy, the leader of African Democratic Change (Adec), said that the whole situation seemed staged.
“The EFF and the ANC are in an alliance in the council, as three of their members are chairpersons of committees that have been agreed to by the ANC. The EFF has been really silent on a number of key issues that ought to be making a noise about, and even motions that I have brought against the city manager they have not supported. And then suddenly today they wake up and put on a performance,” he said.
Reddy said the security guard had been attacked unprovoked.
“They called him to remove the EDD as he was walking towards the EFF members. The EFF decided to throw water bottles at the security personnel. And if you look at the whole scene carefully, you'll find that the security was very calm. The EFF was trying to provoke a confrontation, but they got a lot to learn from Julius Malema and the national team. Their performance was mediocre,” he said.