Business at the copper and nickel mine of Selibe Phikwe is set to come to a standstill following the declaration of the Office of Mayor and Deputy Mayor vacant by the Francistown High Court on Monday.
In a lengthy and hard hitting judgment, Justice Tshepo Motswagole dismissed an application by former mayor – Lekang Mukokomani – who had sought the court to review a “vote of no confidence” motion that was passed against him by the copper mine councilors recently.
After ousting him from the mayoral seat, the councilors voted in his erstwhile deputy Godfrey Mbaiwa into the town’s highest local authority office.
In a judgment that lasted over two and half hours, Justice Motswagole dismissed Mukokomani’s urgent application with costs and declared the mayoral office vacant.
The judge further declared that following the resignation of former Deputy Mayor Mbaiwa when he was voted to be the mayor, rendered the office of the deputy mayor vacant, adding that the election of the deputy mayor was premature and ultra vires the council’s regulations.
The judge said while the powers to remove the mayor before his two and half year term expires is not stipulated under the regulations, he, however, relied on the Public Authorities Functions Act and the Interpretation Act to come to his conclusion or finding.
He said while it was argued that the motion of no confidence was motivated by the fact that the council business was disrupted by the behaviour of the mayor, however attractive the argument was, he could not resolve the issue on the practice of the vote of no confidence because the practice was not canvassed by the council’s attorney Philip Mokone in his pleadings and the answering affidavit of the Town Clerk, Kutlwano Matenge.
The judge said the Public Authorities and Functions Act imposed certain duties on a certain council to direct its work and maintain discipline.
“The power of the council to secure good health cannot be limited by the functionary of a mayor.
The power to appoint must include the power to remove otherwise the council will fail to deliver. What is clear is that the motion was properly introduced. The debate was improperly closed,” observed the judge.
Justice Motswagole held that when Mukokomani ruled on a point of order and abruptly stopped the debate, a resolution of the motion of no confidence had already been passed against him.
He lambasted Mukokomani for being economical with the truth in his founding affidavit, adding that he was hell bent on abusing his powers when he ruled on the point of order which was ┬á“misconceived”.
The judge further said Mukokomani flouted the rules of natural justice as he presided over a motion that sought his removal as that constituted conflict of interest as he was an interested party.
“A duty was imposed on the applicant to withdraw because he had a pecuniary interest. The real danger was presiding on a motion that sought his removal as he was set to lose both financially and morally in the event it was passed against him. The applicant was in a conflict of interest situation” held the presiding judge.
On the voting of the deputy mayor following the resignation of Mbaiwa, he held that it was premature and ultra vires the council regulations, adding that the post of deputy mayor must be filled at the next meeting.
After the judgment, Mukokomani accused the judge of not addressing the issues that he had raised in his application.
His lawyer, Kagiso Jani, said they are going to study the judgment with a view of whether to appeal or not.
Jani also noted that the issue of costs was somewhat equal in that through the striking off of some the affidavits filed by the council, an order as to costs was made against the council by the court in as much as his client’s application was dismissed with costs.