LESS than a month since it won a two-thirds majority in the City of Cape Town opposition parties have accused the DA of using its muscle to stifle debate.

The party voted through a new rule at the first post-election council meeting saying debating time would be allocated according to the percentage of votes won.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) councillor Grant Haskin‚ whose party has three councillors‚ said the DA was behaving like the ANC in Parliament.

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"They are shutting us down. We don’t even have the opportunity to ask proper questions without the speaker shutting us down ... you can’t say anything in one minute‚" he said.

He said that, after complaining about the ANC’s behaviour in Parliament, "when they get to be in government‚ they do the same thing".

ANC chief whip Thandi Manikivana said that, previously‚ parties would negotiate for speaking time depending on their interest in issues up for debate.

"It’s not fair. We are there because we have been given a mandate from the ground by the communities. It means they are either afraid or they are feeling the pressure because we are raising the issues‚" she said.

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Ganief Hendricks‚ from Al Jama-ah‚ with two seats‚ said: "If there are 50 items on the agenda, it means that we can only speak on two items‚ for one minute each. What can you say in one minute?" he said.

Hendricks said the move was an attempt by the DA to enforce their "one party rule" position in Cape Town.

However‚ Yagyah Adams‚ the Cape Muslim Congress’s only councillor‚ said he did not see anything wrong in the reduced time for the smaller parties.

"There is too much time wasted on points of clarity and points of order ... there is very little substance contributed to the debate‚" he said.

DA chief whip Shaun August said the arrangement was not new. "It’s not about stifling debate. If you look at provincial and the national government‚ it is run on the same basis‚" he said.

TMG Digital/The Times