NMB Council votes to remove DA's Chris Roberts for 'bobbejaan' slur
The Council of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which met in Motherwell on Thursday, voted in favour of a recommendation that the Eastern Cape MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Fikile Xasa, remove the Democratic Alliance's (DA) Chris Roberts from the Council for a racist utterance he made last year.
Apparently, during a Nelson Mandela Bay Council meeting on 31 July, Executive Mayor Danny Jordaan, mispronounced United Democratic Movement (UDM) NMB caucus leader and councillor, Mongameli Bobani's surname, prompting Roberts, who is the councillor for Ward 7 to reportedly utter “bobbejaan”. Unfortunately, the utterance was reportedly recorded on tape.
Following an exhaustive internal investigation led by Speaker of Council, Cllr Maria Hermans, a guilty verdict was reached, condemning Roberts. Following the judgement, veteran ANC Councillor, Fikile Desi, emotionally proposed a motion that Roberts should not be allowed to serve as a public representative in council anymore by saying: "I propose on behalf of the ANC that Roberts must be permanently removed from Council. We cannot sit in the same venue as a person that calls us baboons”.
The motion was supported by all other opposition parties with the exception of the DA. A subsequent vote count in the local legislature revealed 69 votes for the motion and 42 against it.
Eastern Cape MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs Fikile Xasa will now take the council decision under advisement and make a final decision.
Chief Whip of Council, Cllr Litho Suka, said: "When one of us is called a baboon we also feel the pain that is why we have decided to wear black as ANC councillors. We do so as a symbol of protest against the humiliation the black people suffer at the hands of these…. racists.
"As the ANC we are determined to fight the scourge of racism with the same determination and tenacity with which we fought and crushed the Apartheid regime.”
All ANC councillors arrived at the meeting donning black to make a statement against racism at a meeting held in a community facility as part of the mayoral directive that meetings should be held closer to the people.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor Dr Danny Jordaan struck a reconciliatory tone when he addressed the meeting on the same subject.
"I want to pledge on my own behalf and on behalf of the Mayoral Committee that we will do everything possible to lead by example to build social cohesion and fight racism. Racism is an abomination which has no place in our democratic society,” Mayor Jordaan said.
Early in January, Roberts was fined R10 000 by the DA for the slur and was demoted from being the party's whip in the Nelson Mandela Bay council.
Roberts has previously apologised for any offence that could have arisen from the incident and maintains that he was misheard.
In his defense, he claims to have called Bobani, “babobani” in a jest.
“Bobani and I enjoy a very cordial relationship that extends back several years and we frequently engage in good natured banter and joke with one another.
“In council when this occurred I said in an aside, jocularly to Shirley Sauls that his name is Bobabooni. Bear in mind that this was in the context of Mayor Jordaan’s repeated attempts to pronounce Mongameni’s surname correctly to the amusement of council,” he added.
Still Bobani filed a formal complaint against him with Council speaker Maria Hermans.
“During his reply to the concerns I raised, the Mayor struggled to pronounce my surname, which is when Roberts interjected by referring to me as ‘bobbejaan’.”
He went on to say that he was stunned in shock and disbelief but was even more astounded when Roberts denied this when he responded to a point-of-order, which was raised in respect of the “bobbejaan” comment.
“I believe that his comments were racially offensive and insulting, above all in a constitutionally associated council. It is an affront and an insult to my dignity as a black person and our constitutional democracy,” Bobani said in the letter to the Speaker.
“It also indicates total disrespect to the decorum of our council as an institution which was built on the bed-rock of our constitutional system.
“I am aggrieved by his comments and it reminds me of the dark days of apartheid where we suffered greatly as black people of this country.”
Watch: YouTuber, Dj GaMillion's, take on Mmusi Maimane's 'Racists are not welcome in the DA' speech early this month. Video courtesy of Dj GaMilion.
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