A HEATED discussion over Nelson Mandela Bay internal auditor Bonnie Chan descended into chaos yesterday, sparking a racial screaming match that saw some councillors having to be held back from hitting each other.
The afternoon's closed session, held in the metro's council chambers, was meant to discuss allegations that Chan manipulated interview scores to favour the appointment of a white man in an affirmative action post, but had to be adjourned when chairwoman Nomvuselelo Tontsi lost control of the meeting.
A councillor at the municipal public accounts committee (MPAC) meeting described it as one of the worst meetings he had ever attended.
The chaos followed an earlier spat between the UDM's Mongameli Bobani and the DA's Retief Odendaal during an open session in the morning after Bobani jokingly said Odendaal should be removed from the chambers because he was busy murmuring to another councillor.
Tension started brewing when Odendaal replied: "I'm part of the committee. You are nothing here."
Bobani lashed back, saying: "There's no one who will say I am nothing ... I will deal with you personally."
Odendaal apologised and Bobani was told to withdraw his threat.
But only hours later, in the discussions around Chan, another argument ensued, this time with all parties joining in.
Councillors said the UDM and ANC wanted Chan disciplined, while the DA believed the call was a witchhunt meant to remove her because her investigations were getting too close to home.
"Councillors nearly came to blows ... There was finger-pointing and screaming. It was crazy," one councillor said. Another said Bobani was ready to charge for Odendaal and had to be held back by COPE councillor Rano Kayser.
The argument is believed to have spun out of control over Chan's letter to the MPAC, wherein she said she was taking legal action against acting municipal manager Themba Hani, Bobani and ANC councillors Marion Harning and Joy Seale for interrogating her and accusing her of being racist at a meeting two months ago.
A councillor at yesterday's closed meeting said ANC councillor Mbongeni Bungane accused DA councillor Leon de Villiers of being condescending and treating the black councillors like they were "workers on his farm".
"This whole debate boils down to race," the councillor said.
The councillors may not discuss the meeting with the media. But Tontsi confirmed it had to be adjourned because "all the councillors were misbehaving".