The ongoing unrest and worker protest action in Tshwane has made its way into the council chambers, with a scuffle ensuing on Thursday between the DA and the EFF.
Councillors were seen hurling insults and physically assaulting one another, in chaotic scenes from the city’s public representatives.
Previously, council speaker Mncedi Ndzwanana attempted to call a council meeting to find a political solution to the impasse between the municipality and its workers that has plunged the capital into strike action and chaos.
However, the DA and its multiparty coalition partners absconded from the meeting. Thursday’s sitting was a second attempt at getting parties to meet around the table and work towards a way forward.
In a dramatic turn of events, the EFF walked into council with placards pledging solidarity with the workers, and this, according to the DA, is what led to a sense of their compromised safety.
DA caucus spokesperson Kwena Moloto said DA councillors expressed concerns for their safety in council given prior remarks made by the EFF. He further accused members of the EFF for attempting to assault the executive mayor, Cilliers Brink, in the council chambers.
“DA councillors were assaulted and hit with projectiles thrown by EFF councillors. This is an unacceptable display of behaviour from the EFF, who have once again proven that they have little regard for our democratic institutions,” he said.
He said the DA condemns the violence and thuggery perpetrated by EFF councillors in chambers today, adding that they have previously expressed that the EFF’s call for the reinstatement on the 122 workers who were dismissed during this illegal strike, is an endorsement of violence.
Moloto also blamed council disorder on the speaker for consistently dismissing motions of no confidence against him, alluding that Ndzwanana was compromised and had conflict of interest.
He also slammed the speaker for being whisked away in the face of the commotion.
“While the speaker promised the safety of councillors in this meeting, his swift departure with VIP protection in the face of violence raises serious questions about his competence and impartiality.”
However, the EFF dismissed these claims, saying they were the victims of the violent attack as they were merely trying to hold a peaceful protest.
EFF regional chairperson Obakeng Ramabodu said their only sin was to demand the reinstatement of dismissed workers and a salary increase for workers in Tshwane.
“The EFF is a protest movement and protest must not be confined to the streets in townships only but where power resides, in council. We demand that the dismissed workers be reinstated immediately, as their livelihoods have been unjustly taken away from them,” he said.
Ramabodu said the violent act perpetrated by members of the DA-led multiparty was an attack on democracy and the rights of workers.
“We stand in solidarity with the workers of Tshwane and the residents who have been affected by these unjust dismissals. We believe in peaceful protests as a means to express grievances and fight for justice,” he said.
In light of the accusations and finger-pointing, both parties have decided to open criminal charges against each other.
The DA will lay charges against individuals who they deem as having “treated the council chamber as boxing ring”.
“Violence and criminality cannot and will not be tolerated,” said Moloto.
He said they will also challenge the speaker’s dismissal of no confidence motions against him in court, citing that today’s events highlight the need to address the competence and ability of the speaker to uphold the integrity of the council proceedings.
The EFF, on the other hand, will also be making their way to law enforcement to open criminal charges.
Particularly, the party accuses the DA of having assaulted their councillor, Odwa Nontununu, during their peaceful protest.
“We will be opening a criminal case against the various councillors involved in this heinous act. We call for a thorough investigation into their actions and for them to be held accountable for their assault on our councillor.
“The EFF will not rest until justice is served. It is disheartening to witness such acts reminiscent of the dark days of apartheid, where black people were denied their right to protest and gather against oppressive authorities.”