Update: The EFF has withdrawn its motion of no confidence in mayor Athol Trollip. The councillor has presumably been allowed to go back to hospital.
Ahead of the third round of a torturous process to take a vote of no confidence in Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip, the ruling coalition unexpectedly found itself on the back foot on Thursday morning when one of its councillors did not initially show up in council.
The Citizen understands the party was already facing the blow of one of its councillors not being able to attend the council vote due to a court appearance he could not get out of related to a funeral parlour and a commercial dispute.
The DA needed every vote it could get, as the opposition parties together have as many as 59 seats out of the 120 in the metro. A difference of one or two votes could have cost the mayor and the speaker, Jonathan Lamack, their jobs, and lose the DA coalition its control of the metro.
When the party realised its councillor, Lodewyk Gallant, was in Life Mercantile Hospital in Port Elizabeth, he was urgently fetched. The Citizen understands he’d been admitted overnight with a “stomach ailment” and placed on a drip, but that his situation was not life-threatening. Once he cast his vote, presumably in favour of his mayor, it was understood he’d be heading back to hospital.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro council convened this special meeting for Thursday to finally debate the much-frustrated Economic Freedom Fighters motion of no confidence in mayor Athol Trollip.
The debate was previously postponed on two occasions when the council sittings ended abruptly after members of the opposition disrupted the proceedings with continuous interjections. It was initially scheduled for 10 April but then postponed indefinitely.
The last meeting had to be postponed when EFF members disrupted the speaker, demanding his resignation for alleged bias as a presiding officer. Although the UDM was initially part of the disruption, its councillor Mongamela Bobani was later warned by his party to desist from disruptive behaviour or disciplinary action would be taken against him, including being recalled from council.
The UDM said that, although it favoured Trollip’s removal, it was against any public display of ill-discipline by its councillors and always wanted council decorum to be respected. Bobani remained calm throughout the last council meeting.
The EFF’s move to oust Trollip was thrown into disarray when the Patriotic Alliance (PA) decided to break away from the opposition and sided with the DA in favour of keeping Trollip as mayor. The PA argued that it was opposed to the EFF’s allegedly racist motivation for removing Trollip after it claimed the mayor had to go because he was white and the DA had failed to support land expropriation without compensation in parliament.
In its effort, the EFF is currently backed by the opposition ANC and UDM while the African Independent Congress (AIC), Congress of the People and African Christian Democratic Party are likely to vote with the DA against the motion. The AIC previously aligned itself with the ANC but decided to oppose the motion for reasons that echoed the PA’s.
Out of the 120 seats in Nelson Mandela Bay, the DA-led coalition holds 61 seats of which 57 are for the DA. The EFF has six seats, the UDM two and there is one each for the ACDP, AIC, PA and Cope, while the ANC occupies the remaining 50.
There were initial fears that, should the ANC, EFF, UDM, PA and AIC vote together, the DA and Trollip would easily be unseated. But the decision by the single-councillor PA to throw its weight behind Trollip shifted the scales in the DA’s favour and against Julius Malema’s plan to have a council possibly led by an EFF-ANC coalition.
In a typical twist of political fortune, Trollip was saved from a similar no-confidence motion proposed by the UDM last year when all six EFF councillors voted against the UDM-initiated motion after the UDM was annoyed at the removal of Bobani as deputy mayor.
Background reporting, Eric Naki