Embattled Okahandja local authority councillors have asked new urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni to set aside their suspensions within five days.
The six politicians were suspended on 16 March 2020 by Uutoni’s predecessor Peya Mushelenga for allegedly failing to comply with ministerial directives, non-submission of council minutes and mismanagement.
In a letter dated 1 April 2020, the councillors, who are serving out their last year of a five-year term, challenged their suspensions through their lawyers Kishi Shakumu and Co.
“We hereby wish to inform you that the abovementioned suspension of our clients is illegal and ultra vires ... provisions of section 92 of the Act,” the letter reads in part.
In the letter, the lawyers argue that Mushelenga failed to comply with provisions of the Local Authorities Act when dealing with a non-performance of a council.
These procedures involved writing to council in question to demand answers and provide instruction on how to remedy any problems that may exist. “If a local authority council fails to comply with or to adhere to an instruction the minister may remove or suspend the members of such local authority council from office.”
According to the communication, Mushelenga failed to instruct the councillors by notice in writing – to take specific steps to rectify the issues concerned before suspending them.
“Our clients never failed to comply with any directive or instruction from [Mushelenga], as no specific instructions were ever given to them.”
“Councillors are freely and democratically elected by the masses, and the minister cannot be allowed at will and pleasure to determine the tenure of councillors. “
It continues: “The minister should also not be allowed to wrongfully and unlawfully topple a legitimately elected council under the false pretences that they have violated the law.”
Furthermore, the councillors opined that such conduct is unlawful and frowned upon in a democratic society.
When contacted for comments, Uutoni maintained he had not received the letter from Kishi Shakumu and Co, and that he will look into the matter when the letter arrives.
“I don’t know how they sent the letter but I will go in to work tomorrow [today] to see if the letter arrived,” said Uutoni.