FRANCISTOWN: A total of 12 opposition and ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) councillors yesterday walked out in frustration from a full council meeting after a bid to oust mayor Sylvia Muzila flopped.
The bid was halted due to differences over the interpretation of Article 20 of the Council’s Standing Orders governing the tabling of urgent matters during a full council meeting.
Nominated councillor, Peter Ngoma was widely tipped to replace Muzila.
Observers have said the recent developments highlight the factionalism prevalent between the BDP councillors supporting Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the position of party chairman and those backing minister Nonofo Molefhi.
Muzila’s team is reportedly backing Masisi while Ngoma’s wing is on Molefhi’s side.
Yesterday, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Tshwaragano ward councillor, Gaone Majere was supposed to table his motion of no confidence against Muzila after he was seconded to do so by one of the councillors.
The article under contention reads: “On the motion being seconded, the mayor shall, without allowing any debate on the motion, call on the member putting the motion to introduce the new item of business in the usual manner.”
The councillors backing Muzila said that as per their interpretation of the standing orders, in order for the motion to be tabled and debated it had to go through a voting process (to be included in the business of the day).
Councillors on Ngoma’s side maintained the contrary and said that since Majere’s bid to table an urgent motion had been seconded, he should be allowed to table the motion for debate. They said that voting for who should replace Muzila would follow the debate.
The councillors backing Ngoma recommended that clarity be sought from the council attorney but he was not available. City clerk, Mompati Seleka who backed the version from Muzila’s team led by nominated councillor, James Kgalajwe said that the attorney was in court.
After Seleka’s address, the councillors backing Ngoma stormed out of the council maintaining they would only return when the council attorney was available to offer them clarity. Muzila had insisted that routine council business should go on.
Yesterday, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) councillor, Ben Mpotokwane said they wanted to oust Muzila because she, along with some council leaders, had a tendency of not implementing council resolutions.
“Recently the mayor told us that Masisi would come and address us while we knew that the council had resolved that a delegation should go and meet him in Gaborone. We were against such a decision (Masisi coming) because it was against our (councillors) resolution.”
In fact the 12 councillors were reportedly planning to boycott Masisi’s address, which was scheduled for Tuesday.
Masisi was expected to address
Muzila was also accused of favouring some BDP councillors within the council chambers. A day before attempting to oust Muzila, the 12 councillors had again stormed out of the council chambers saying the mayor was reluctant to reprimand “one of her favorite councillors”, Zazambi Tuelo who had allegedly used “obscene” words towards them. Tuelo apologised yesterday.
Muzila denied any wrongdoing in an interview yesterday.
“There are people who want to oust me from the mayoral position for personal gain. These people are the ones who are peddling lies about me and are critical of every step I take in order to advance their efforts to oust me. They are doing this out of greed which is wrong,” she said.
Muzila said that there were some reports that she had favoured some councillors for an upcoming trip to Belgium. She said this was also unfair to her.
“It is the pregorative of the mayor as a strategic decision maker to decide who should go for such trips. I do not know why people are questioning me when I send people abroad. Some mayors have previously sent people abroad and they were never interrogated.”
On Monday, Seleka also said that as the mayor, Muzila is empowered to choose who goes for trips abroad.
Ahead of the ouster bid, it emerged that BDP deputy secretary general, Shaw Kgathi had attempted to prevent the BDP councillors from going ahead with their efforts to kick Muzila out. Kgathi reportedly sent a cell phone text message to certain councillors to dissuade them, but failed.
“I write in my capacity as the deputy secretary general. The party leadership has learnt of your differences amongst yourselves as BDP councillors.”
Kgathi continued in his message: “I therefore plead with you that you do not wash our dirty linen in public thus you defer the matter and peacefully conclude business of the council till the central committee sends a full delegation to come and listen as well as resolve your concerns,” reads parts of the message.
Yesterday after the failed bid, Kgathi would not be drawn into discussing the text message he reportedly sent. “ It would be unethical to discuss party issues in the media,” he said.