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60 councillors vote out Deputy Mayor Mongameli Bobani, but matter unresolved

By Afikile Lugunya - Aug 24, 2017
60 councillors vote out Deputy Mayor Mongameli Bobani, but matter unresolved

Is the United Democratic Movement's (UDM), Mongameli Bobani, still the Nelson Mandela Bay Deputy Executive Mayor or has he been booted out? This question captures the drama that unfolded at Thursday's Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality council meeting where a motion no confidence was brought against Bobani.

However, things did not go smoothly at the council meeting.

After the motion was tabled by Cllr Marlon Daniels, of the Patriotic Alliance, the African National Congress (ANC), the United Democratic Movement (UDM), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the African Independent Congress (AIC), rose up and left the Council Chamber, Bobani in tow, and while chanting political songs and dancing.

The parties claimed that the Democratic Alliance (DA) -led coalition failed to put forth tangible evidence of Bobani's alleged wrong-doing that would warrant for his removal, besides the tensions between him and the Executive Mayor, the DA's Athol Trollip.

The EFF in an emotional speech said that the motion went against the spirit of the coalition and warned councillors that after Bobani is removed, the DA would seek to remove Cllrs from other parties from their council positions.

Through the walk out, the parties hoped to force a collapse of proceedings in the motion of no confidence.

Undettered, the DA, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the Congress of the People (COPE) voted in the motion and with 60 votes - ousted Bobani as Deputy Executive Mayor, or so it would seem.

The EFF later went back into the Council Chamber and disputed the vote claiming that given the number of people that remained in the chamber, it was impossible to have 60 votes.

Bobani himself announced to the media that was present that he was still the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Deputy Executive Mayor and will come to work on Friday morning as usual.

Complicating matters is also the fact that there are 120 seats in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which means the DA and its partners needed at least 61 votes for the vote of no confidence to pass, the protesting parties argue.

The parties that staged the walk-out are understood to be seeking legal action to force the Speaker of Council, Cllr Jonathan Lawack, to nullify the vote and reconvene another Council Meeting to debate the motion of no confidence.

Meanwhile, members of the DA-led coalition government, MMC Nqaba Bhanga, of the DA; MMC Siyanda Sijadu, form Cope; MMC Lance Grootboom, ACDP; and Cllr Marlon Daniels, Patriotic Alliance, released a joint statement on Thursday saying the vote stands.

"The 60 councillors that voted today for the motion of No Confidence in the Deputy Executive Mayor Cllr Mongameli Bobani did so based on the fact that he has consistently voted against this coalition government," they said.

"There is a co-governance agreement that guides our coalition, all issues that have arisen that have caused division have been dealt with with all participating parties over a period of 8 months."

The partners said that when coalition partners vote consistently against the coalition we for all intents and purposes do not have a coalition, especially if the said person votes and caucuses with the opposition.

"The motion of No Confidence has been on the agenda for a long time now and everyone knew it would be debated.

"Today, Cllr Marlon Daniels put the motion, seconded by Cllr Nqaba Bhanga. The ANC, EFF and the AIC all participated in the debate then when the position was put they proceeded to walk out," they described.

"However, as far as we are concerned, once they participated in the debate they were part of the debate. Their decision to walk out was of their own choice.  

"The vote happened whilst many councillors were still in the chamber." 

The DA partners said that the decision to remove the Deputy Executive Mayor was purely based on the individual and not the party he represents, the UDM.

"As such, we are looking forward to taking this Municipality to greater heights as Coalition partners," the statement read.

Vote of no confidence

The motion that was initially scheduled for August 10 was postponed to the 24th of August at the last minute, apparently to make way for other 'important' items on the Council meeting agenda that still needed to be debated by Councillors as well as to allow for outstanding and crucial reports to be handed in for the motion.

Meanwhile, things seem to not have improved. On Tuesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA)-led coalition government in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality said that it was perturbed at the alleged comments attributed to Bobani, regarding the recent evictions of people occupying land illegally in the Motherwell area.

Cllr Bhanga said that for the Deputy Executive Mayor to be seen to be inciting residents, who were recently moved by the Sheriff of the Court from a site where they had erected illegal structures "is nothing short of irresponsible in this regard and his behaviour is all the more concerning due to the violent nature of the recent invasions and protests". 

"It also flies in the face of court's decision.

It is understood that the crucial reports and investigations into Bobani's alleged poor leadership are now available for the motion of no confidence in him to be put before councillors.

What is not fully clear is how many of the smaller opposition parties are in his corner.

If removed, Bobani will remain just a Councillor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

In May, UDM supporters protested against the removal of Bobani and asked for Trollip's head instead.

Renewed move to remove Bobani

Speaking to reporters in Soweto at the beginning of the month, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, Athol Tollip, revealed that no progress was made in trying to resolve tensions between him and his Deputy from the United Democratic Movement's (UDM), and a motion of no confidence in Bobani was to be debated at Thursday's a Council meeting. 

Trollip, who was in Johannesburg with other DA Mayors for a report back of what the DA-led administrations had achieved after a year in office, said that UDM leader, Bantu Holomisa had committed to help the two iron out their differences in July, but is yet to meet with the two.

"There is no guarantee with a vote of no confidence. However, it's a statement: It's a statement that what you are doing is not acceptable; it's holding us back," the Mayor said, adding that he believes the city is better off without Bobani as Deputy Mayor.

Tensions reach a boiling point in May following days of heightened tensions at City Hall after Trollip, finally indicated he wanted to get rid of Bobani resulting in the principal political parties that are in a coalition with the DA having to meet to diffuse the situation.

Bobani is Deputy Mayor through a coalition agreement signed between the UDM, the DA and other smaller parties to effectively oust the African National Congress (ANC) after the DA, represented by Trollip, failed to get an outright win in the Metro in last year's Local Government Elections.

While they publicly denied it for months, there had been rumours of growing disharmony between Trollip and Bobani.

Apparently, the are disagreements between Trollip and Bobani over governance and staff appointments -  chief among them being the fate of Municipal Manager, Johann Mettler.

The rumours were confirmed when the two began to make public allegations and counter-allegations leading to a point when Trollip announced that he had fired Bobani from the Health Directorate and said he would seek his removal at council.

According to a joint statement released by the DA and the UDM, after the mediation, all parties to the coalition affirmed a commitment to the continuance of the coalition, "and the coalition remains intact".

The ultimatum put to the UDM to remove Bobani was withdrawn.

"The coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay is set to go from strength to strength," the parties said then.

While Trollip sacked Bobani as the political head of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality's Health Directorate, he remains in his post as Deputy Mayor. 

Trollip said that the Directorate has been of concern for a number a months given serious allegations of maladministration and impropriety, all of which are being investigated.

"Furthermore, Cllr Bobani's public behaviour and conduct has been unacceptable as a member of my Mayoral Committee and not consistent with what is expected of a Deputy Mayor," Trollip said then.

"I have attempted on numerous occasions to address Cllr Bobani's conduct through the UDM's National Leadership. Cllr Bobani has gone too far with his continued unsubstantiated defamatory remarks, spurious public statements and recently laid criminal charges against senior executive administrators."

UDM leader, Bantu Holomisa, responded by telling Trollip to swallow his pride as Bobani was going nowhere yet.

Bobani also denied all allegations levelled at him.