Mayors and deputy mayors who were recently removed from office through the controversial ‘vote of no confidence’ motions around the country are likely to take up the matter with the government following a recent Court of Appeal judgment declaring that the removal of the former Selebi Phikwe mayor Lekang Mukokomani was unlawful.
In the ruling that is likely to set a precedent, judge Lord Abernathy ruled that the Township Act does not have a provision for a ‘motion of no confidence’ and thus it cannot be used to remove a mayor from office until the next mayoral election which occurs every two and half years.
This, according to observers, is likely to throw the ministry of Local Government, and local authorities into confusion, as some deposed mayors and chairpersons might start demanding reinstatements and or payments due to them following their unlawful removal.
Themba Joina, a lawyer who represented Mukokomani in the case, this week said it was unlikely that the judgment will set a precedent because each case is judged on its own merit. He suggested that other deposed mayors might have sat on their rights by not challenging their deposition in the courts of law.
Joina’s argument is challenged by a local lawyer who argues that the Court of Appeal ruling is clear that a mayor cannot be removed from office before the stipulated two-and-half year period unless if he/she resigns before that time.
“Most of these mayors were recently removed from office, so I don’t understand why it would be said that they sat on their rights,” said the lawyer.
Sources close to Mukokomani say the former mayor will claim all the benefits and allowances that were due to him from the time he was removed from his position to the time his term was scheduled to end.
Should this come to pass Mukokomani is owed in excess of P200, 000 of government money after he was deposed 15 months before the expiry of his office tenure.
For his part former Francistown deputy mayor Ephraim Maiketso this week told Northern Extra that he was yet to study the recent CoA judgment to familiarise himself with his options. He was removed in a similar manner after serving in his position only for four months in 2010.
“My lawyers will advise me,” he said.
Meanwhile former Gaborone mayor Veronica Lesole - who was also removed from office in September 2011 thanks to a no confidence motion passed against her - told Northern Extra that she doesn’t intend to challenge the decision that removed her from office.
She said though it was clear that she was removed unlawfully, “what has happened has happened.”
This week, Mukokomani was of the view that the judgment chinks in the local government ministry. He said the ministry had failed to prevent lawlessness that was taking place in the local authorities.
“The [then] minister of local government failed to control the situation and protect the mayors. Even when the president [Ian] Khama publicly denounced what was taking place in our councils the minister preferred to see no evil and hear no evil. As the political head of the ministry he should take the blame,” he said.
This week the minister responsible for local authorities Peter Siele told Northern Extra that his office has just learnt of the judgment through the media, adding, “Government will have to study the implication of that judgment before wecomment.”