Racial slur case against NMB DA cllr goes to party's highest disciplinary body

AUGUST 25, 2015

The Democratic Alliance's highest disciplinary body, the Federal Legal Commission, is set to hear a case against its Nelson Mandela Bay councillor, Chris Roberts, who is accused of a racial slur during a recent council meeting. Roberts is the councillor for Ward 7.

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 to reportedly utter “bobbejaan”.

Unfortunately, the utterance was recorded on tape.     

Sworn affidavits from other Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality DA councillors, will form part of the evidence that will determine Roberts’s fate as a political representative of the party at City Hall.

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’.”

In his complaint, Bobani, asked the speaker to urgently institute a formal investigation.

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.”

Bobani said the DA councillor must be formally charged according to the code of conduct and ethics of councillors.

DA Nelson Mandela Bay Mayoral candidate, Athol Trollip, told PE Express that a charge has been levelled against Roberts by a fellow DA councillor, Knight Mali, but they are unable to proceed with the legal process as the speaker has not released the transcripts of that specific sitting.

“There was a recording made which we have been asking the speaker for access to. It’s frustrating because this a vital piece of evidence,” Trollip said.

Roberts in a letter to DA councillor , who filed the complaint against Roberts, said he apologised “unreservedly for any hurt or offence caused to you and assure you that no malice was intended.”