There will be no extraordinary sitting of the Johannesburg council on Tuesday, after Gauteng High Court Judge Gcina Malindi ruled that chair of chairs, councillor Colleen Makhubele, was not acting speaker and thus could not call the meeting.
In a ruling late on Monday night, Malindi declared the meeting invalid and ordered Makhubele to pay the costs of the court application.
Makhubele, who had appointed herself speaker last week, scheduled a special sitting outside of the ordinary sitting set to take place at the end of the month.
The special sitting was to elect a speaker after Vasco da Gama was ousted at the beginning of the month in a motion of no confidence.
Parties within the multi-government coalition had expressed their intention of calling for a motion of no confidence in City of Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse. The motion was expected to take place at the next sitting of the council.
If the judge had ruled in favour of Makhubele, the motion of no confidence would likely have occurred.
In a statement on Tuesday following the court ruling, Phalatse said that while it was never desirable to ventilate these matters in court, "we had no choice but to approach the courts to rule on this matter, as common sense and a commitment to democratic process did not prevail".
She condemned Makhubele's actions, which she said only sought to "create confusion in the minds of residents and undermine the laws of the country and the Rules of Council, all in an effort to grab power at all costs".
"Now that the court has pronounced on what was clear to many of us, we appeal to our political opponents to cease and desist from destructive and self-serving political games.Now that this chapter is closed, we will await notice from the acting city manager Mr Bryne Maduka for a sitting of council to duly elect a speaker. Equally, in the interim, this will give the acting secretary to council Madimetsa Molekwa the space and time to run the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the City's legislature," she said.
She said while the City could not get back the time it had lost in court, "we can find solace in the fact that the monies spent fighting an attempted coup of corruption will be returned to the City's coffers … and they will be directed towards their rightful function – the delivery of services".
Makhubele broke rank with her political party Cope when she voted to oust Da Gama. She is the only Cope representative in the coalition. An internal investigation into the matter by the party is under way.
"The idea is to buy time and delay the meeting. That's why the city manager has not called for a meeting to sit [but they can call for a sitting within] 72 hours," Makhubele told Radio 702 last week.
Cope distanced itself from her actions and apologised to its voters.
In court, Makhubele relied on Rule 19 A, which states that if the speaker is unable to do their duties, it falls to the chair of chairs to take over the role.
But the city manager successfully argued for Act 41 of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, which states that if the speaker of a municipal council is absent or not available to perform the functions of the speaker, or during a vacancy, the council must elect another councillor to act as speaker.