The Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday dashed the DA’s hopes of returning to power in the city after the application brought by the party, as well as coalition partners, was dismissed.
Judgment was handed down at the packed courthouse by Judge Elna Revelas.
Revelas also announced that Mbulelo Victor Manyati, the “rogue councillor” whose decision to vote alongside the ANC, UDM, EFF, AIC and United Front led to Trollip’s removal, was still a DA councillor at the time of his decision to vote against his party.
The judge ordered the DA and its coalition partners to pay Manyati’s legal costs.
This followed arguments made last week that saw the former governing coalition of the DA, Congress of the People, and African Christian Democratic Party attempting to make the case that the motion of no confidence that removed Athol Trollip as the mayor was “illegal”.
Last month Trollip was removed through a motion of no confidence and his nemesis from the United Democratic Movement (UDM), former deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani, was elected mayor.
In a statement after the outcome, the DA said they respected the outcome and decision of the court.
They said, though, that “today is a dark day for Nelson Mandela Bay and its people who are now led by a coalition of the corrupt”.
They alleged the UDM and EFF had in effect handed the city back to the ANC.
“The ANC is only interested in maximum looting and minimum delivery and not putting the people of NMB first. The UDM and EFF put their political interests first and care nothing for the wellbeing of the people of NMB.
“In 2017 we said we cannot work with the UDM and we cannot work with Cllr Mongameli Bobani. We were prepared then to go into a minority government, because we were not prepared to compromise our principles.
“In 2016 the voters of NMB removed the corrupt and failing ANC from office and placed their trust in the DA.
“We will now fight from the opposition benches and hold this government to account. From the opposition benches we will ensure that corruption is stopped, access to jobs is opened and services are delivered.”
The DA’s former coalition partner, the Patriotic Alliance, announced last week they would rather not participate in the court case and their one councillor opted to take his place in the opposition benches in council.
The DA and its other coalition partners had lodged the court application asking for an urgent review of the council decision.
Last month, drama unfolded at a council meeting when Manyati betrayed his colleagues by abstaining from a vote that ultimately led to the removal of council speaker Jonathan Lawack.
After Lawack was ousted, the DA-led coalition fell apart when several motions, including a motion of no confidence against Trollip, succeeded in his absence.
The DA argued the process that was followed was unlawful, invalid, and capable of being set aside. They wanted the court to declare the meeting and subsequent decisions by council set aside or declared unlawful.
However, the court ruled on Thursday that they had failed to provide compelling evidence to suggest that Manyati’s vote or lack thereof was no longer admissible and that the meeting was not quorate after been recognised as a quorum at the start of the day.
City manager Johann Mettler had presided over the meeting and later declared a vacancy after DA Federal Executive chairperson James Selfe wrote a letter indicating Manyati’s party membership would be terminated after he told journalists of his intention to quit.
After a vacancy was declared, the DA and its coalition partners walked out of chambers but opposition parties were adamant that there was still a quorum and other motions would be heard.
Mettler told the remaining councillors from the ANC, UDM, the EFF, African Independent Congress (AIC), and United Front (UF) that there was no quorum and he too left chambers.
Later that day, Mettler did an about-turn after he sent a text message to ANC councillor Rory Riordan stating that he would retract declaring a vacancy. Meanwhile, cooperative governance and traditional affairs (CoGTA) member of the executive (MEC) Fikile Xasa sent a senior official to preside over the council meeting and oversee the election of a new council speaker.
Filing a notice to abide by the court’s decision on the matter meant that Mettler and the metro took a back seat and expressed their intention to respect the court’s finding in the case.
The DA’s lawyers argued that there was no quorum in council on the day Trollip was ousted and that councillor Manyati ceased to be a DA member when the vote against Trollip proceeded.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, for the opposing side, argued that the DA could not pinpoint when exactly Manyati ceased to be a member of the party.
Background reporting, ANA