There were scenes of celebration at the Port Elizabeth High Court today after it dismissed an application brought by the Democratic Alliance (DA) challenging the outcome of a controversial council meeting which saw the ousting of Athol Trollip as mayor.
Defeated former mayor Athol Trollip told reporters outside the court that he respected the judge’s finding and that he would remain on as an opposition councillor.
Trollip wasted no time in taking a swipe at former DA councillor Victor Manyati, who he labelled a sell-out. Trollip was adamant that Manyati’s membership was terminated at the council meeting, despite the court’s finding that this was in fact a contravention of the DA’s own constitution.
“You were part of the journalists that recorded him saying he was leaving the DA. And he took it one step further, he actually crossed the benches, crossed the floor and sat in the benches of the ANC. So you can’t be a DA member if you sit in the ANC benches. But as far as we are concerned we have seen this treachery before in the floor crossing and since people are desperate to get into power,” said Trollip.
The DA in Nelson Mandela Bay will now return to council in the opposition benches.
The court battle arose over a technicality around Manyati’s party membership after he publicly stated that he would resign. The new government in the Bay, the UDM, ANC, UF and the AIC coalition with the support of the EFF had insisted at the time that there was a quorum of 61 councillors in the house to continue.
The DA, however, walked out and claimed there was no quorum because Manyati’s membership had ceased effective immediately based on his public utterances.
The court, however, pointed to “flaws in the political decision-making of the DA” which ultimately led to their defeat. Judge Johann Huisamen, in his judgment, stated that in terms of the DA’s own constitution the party guaranteed the rights of its members to principles of a fair process, and found that the party was in breach of its own constitution.
Huisamen said that the DA subsequently seemed to have realized that their impromptu termination of Manyati’s membership during the lunch adjournment at the council meeting was premature.
He said that the DA’s internal disciplinary documents clearly indicated that, as far as the DA was concerned, Manyati’s membership as a DA councillor officially ceased, one day after the council meeting took place.
The court found that the DA’s purported termination of Manyati’s membership was “unlawful” and in conflict with the Patricia De Lille judgment: “There was therefore factually no vacancy at any point on 27 August 2018 and because there was no vacancy there was, at all material times, a quorum of 61 councillors.”
Executive Mayor Mongameli Bobani of the UDM cheered outside the court building: “I am legitimate, we won, we won.” He said the judgment was a victory for Nelson Mandela Bay residents.
Speaking to reporters, an excited Bobani said processes followed at that council meeting were in accordance with the rules. He slammed the DA for firing Manyati in the middle of the meeting. Manyati abstained from the vote which ultimately led to the removal of Speaker Jonathan Lawack.
“It is a victory for Nelson Mandela Bay residents. We are going to have a strategic session in order to ensure that we are bringing services to the city for all our communities, black and white are happy about this victory. We are not going to disappoint them we are going to provide them with the basic services,” Bobani said.