The court case of the former coalition government in Nelson Mandela Bay is being heard in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday in an attempt to reverse the outcomes of the motion of no confidence last month against Athol Trollip.
The DA, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and Congress of the People (Cope) will have to do so without the support of former coalition partner the Patriotic Alliance (PA) though.
It appears to mark the end of a troubled partnership between the DA and the PA over the past year, with the latter party and its lone councillor vacillating between forming part of the so-called former opposition Black Caucus in the metro and being part of the DA-led administration.
The PA’s Marlon Daniels had agreed to support Trollip in March after withdrawing from an earlier coalition – in exchange for being made the MMC of roads of transport. He also expected to be made deputy mayor.
A tumultuous ousting
The DA, ACDP and Cope are hoping the court will agree with their view that Trollip was not voted out legally, as the council meeting was allegedly no longer quorate following the DA’s decision to fire Victor Manyati, a councillor who turned rogue and decided not to vote along party lines, giving the ANC, United Democratic Movement (UDM), African Independent Congress, EFF and United Front the upper hand, with 60 votes to 59.
The former government also alleges the election of Buyelwa Mafaya as speaker on the day was unlawful.
Mafaya was elected after a tumultuous morning that saw Eastern Cape cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Fikile Xasa sending an official to preside over the meeting in the early evening of August 27.
This came after city manager Johann Mettler had earlier declared the meeting didn’t have a quorum and could not continue after he obtained a legal opinion that saw him initially agreeing with the view that Manyati was no longer a councillor.
A new speaker was elected in the absence of Mettler and councillors from the DA, ACDP, Cope and the PA.
The UDM’s Mongameli Bobani was then elected the new mayor.
The DA is hoping it will be able to make the legal case that Mettler was still available to preside over the meeting, according to local government law, and Xasa should therefore not have intervened.
Their opponents, however, have argued the meeting formed a quorum when it started and could not be deemed inquorate later. They also feel Mettler had adjourned the meeting simply to save Trollip, both illegally and with bias, since only the Independent Electoral Commission of SA could have declared a vacancy after Manyati’s firing.
Count the PA out
It appears the PA may agree with this view. In a statement issued on Thursday morning, party leader Gayton McKenzie said: “The Patriotic Alliance has taken a decision to withdraw from the shared legal action…”
He said the motion had played out “in an unfortunate manner, particularly for the DA, but we no longer feel there is a strong enough basis to challenge it, either in law or from a political perspective”.
They said they would give Bobani’s admninistration a chance to prove itself and that the metro needed peace instead of constant bickering between the parties.
“The reality is that the PA always expressed its concerns about the provision of services to the poor in Nelson Mandela Bay. Our people continue to suffer under the scourge of crime (as exemplified by the latest crime stats, which were damning about our metro), poverty, unemployment and lack of services.
“Bobani has made big promises that his administration will be working to rectify this situation and improve the city. We hope our action of accepting the new government will bring much-needed peace for the people of the metro.
“In our view the many complaints regarding the old coalition from the Black Caucus parties and the threats from certain sections of the community to withhold their rate payments were not entirely without basis.
“What has particularly left a bad taste in the mouth is the comments of some politicians and residents in the metro in reaction to Bobani taking over that can’t be described as normal critique. It has racist overtones and suggests the view that black people can’t govern. As the PA, we reject this.”
The party added they would be taking their place in council as a member of the opposition, and would work to “make our contribution there as constructive as possible, and to keep the new government accountable to the people”.
“Finally, we encourage the DA to get its house in order. They are facing a mutiny. We could not go to war with an army that disregards its own commanders.”
In an extraordinary boast last month, EFF leader Julius Malema claimed that there were as many as 10 black DA councillors who had turned against Trollip and who could choose to withhold their votes one at a time for as long as required, possibly making Trollip’s further attempts to remain the mayor in the city futile.
He may also now have lost the vote of the PA, which he would also need if he hopes to regain and retain power.