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DA-led coalition faces biggest test yet as parties seek Trollip's head, EFF holding deciding vote

By Afikile Lugunya - Nov 30, 2017
DA-led coalition faces biggest test yet as parties seek Trollip's head, EFF holding deciding vote

The Democratic Alliance (DA) led coalition government in Nelson Mandela Bay will on Thursday face its biggest test yet as opposition parties seek the ouster of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, as well as Council Speaker, Jonathan Lawack, in two motions of no confidence that will be debated at this year's last Council Meeting.

There has been ongoing political drama at City Hall for months now after tensions between Trollip and his then Deputy, Mongameli Bobani, from the the United Democratic Movement (UDM) became public.

While they publicly denied it for months, there had been rumours of growing disharmony between Trollip and Bobani. Apparently, there were 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 as Deputy Mayor at council.

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.

DA led coalition

After failing to get an outright win in the 2016 Local Government Elections, the DA entered into coalition agreements with the Congress of the People‚ the United Democratic Movement‚ the African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Front Plus, with goal of ensuring it had enough numbers to keep the defeated African National Congress (ANC) at bay in Council. 

It now would seem the UDM and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) are pursuing a common cause to remove the DA's Trollip and Lawack. Surprisingly, the motion against Trollip was proposed by Patriotic Alliance councillor, Marlon Daniels, who in August tabled a motion of no confidence in Bobani, leading to Bobani's ouster as the Deputy Mayor.

The Patriotic Alliance was admitted into the DA-led coalitiondays later and Daniels took over Bobani's previous portfolio as Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality MMC for Public Health.

UDM Leader, Bantu Holomisa, who was fighting for the reinstatement of Bobani, said at the time that the DA had won over the PA with a mayoral committee seat and in exchange, the PA did the DA's dirty work.

The UDM failed to get Bobani reinstated through the courts after the UDM's application was thrown out.

It later emerged that the PA had apparently been promised the Deputy Mayor position and after opposition parties that included the UDM and the African National Congress (ANC) boycotted the Council Meeting that would debate the matter in September, the Patriotic Alliance announced that it was leaving the DA-led coalition.

The DA called it a non-event.

Trollip subsequently took over the Public Health portfolio.

Writing to DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, Daniels claimed that the PA, like the DA and other opposition parties, is determined not to bring the ANC back in power in the Metro, but he claims that Trollip is misleading the municipality.

“The mayor is really not the person he seems to be, he is deceitful, he is autocratic and it must be his way or the highway," he said, adding that Trollip often makes his own decisions without consulting with anyone.

In the PA's notice of motion, Daniels voices concern about Trollip agreeing to the appointments of City Manager, Johan Mettler, and Human Settlements and Corporate Service boss, Vuyo Zitumane. 

"I therefore move that Mr Trollip be removed from his duties with immediate effect as he has disrespected and misled this municipality resulting in law suit," he says.

Daniels wants a new mayor to be appointed with immediate effect.

In turn, Bobani has proposed that Council Speaker, Lawack, also be removed accusing him of being biased to the DA, his party, when chairing Council meetings.

The numbers game

After all the drama witnessed this year, the DA-led coalition has 59 seats in the 120 seat Council. The DA has 57 seats, while COPE and the African Christian Democratic Party have one seat each.

On the one hand, the ANC has 50 seats while the minority parties, who intend to vote with them - the Patriotic Alliance, United Front, African Independent Congress, and UDM, add a total of five seats.

The deciding votes rest with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has six seats. It has not indicated, which way it is voting.

'Athol Trollip is a person who lies on a daily basis'

On Wednesday, the opposition parties, the Patriotic Alliance represented by Daniels; the UDM represented by Bobani; the United Front represented by Mkhuseli Mtsila and the AIC represented by Thsonono Buyeye, held a press briefing where they discussed the motion of no confidence against Trollip.

At the briefing, Daniels apologised to Bobani for helping to kick him out of the Deputy Mayor position, claiming he was manipulated.

“I want to use this platform to apologise to the UDM and councillor Bobani because I was made to believe certain things about him that Trollip told me.

“I got to know Trollip when I worked closer with him; I too was lobbied since January this year to join the coalition and at that time Trollip and Bobani were not in good terms," he said.

“I never thought that at my age somebody would deceive me with lies, I thought my experience would guide me through this. Athol Trollip is a person, who lies on a daily basis, who goes along as things revolves to suite him.

“In one meeting at City Hall, he had a folder in front of him, paged through it while I was sitting at the end of table and there were other councillors too. He pointed at certain pages and said, 'can you see here, councillor Bobani must go because here he took R400 000' he turned to a new page and said, 'and there he took R600 000, he took a million rand from this institution and we cannot have a guy of that calibre being the deputy mayor',” Daniels described.

Daniels claimed that when the Deputy Mayor was saying these things it was when the Hawks investigated Cheeky Watson.

He added that he wasn’t given a chance to peruse through the documents that the mayor was referring to - doing so as if he was pointing to specifics.

“That was then that I knew that Trollip is onto something, he convinced me to believe that Bobani is corrupt and I thought that I was voting against a corrupt person, but up to this day there hasn’t been a single proof that councillor Bobani is corrupt.”

According to Daniels, after the mayor was asked many times even by UDM leader, Bantu Holomisa, to bring the documents that proves that Cllr Bobani is corrupt, but he never did.

“I realised that in three weeks of working with Trollip there were more lies that I cannot stomach, he was on a mission to conquered and divide, which he succeeded in the Patriotic Alliance and for that I want to apologise,” he added.

Bobani accepted the apology and added that it is not Daniels’ fault that the situation is the way it is.

“If it was not for Trollip, Daniels wouldn’t be in that particular situation, we never had a problem with him in fact our major problem are the lies that Mr Trollip is throwing away against myself and my party including serious allegations,” Bobani described.

While Daniels and Bobani made peace and shook hands, a few minutes later, the Democratic Alliance had its own press conference where, DA Eastern Cape leader, Nqaba Bhanga, referred to Bobani as a cry baby.

Bhanga also said that Daniels and Bobani are spreading lies against the mayor because they were kicked out of their positions.

‘Trollip’s fate lies in the hands of reasonable people in the council’

On Wednesday, the DA held a press conference to highlight what the DA-led coalition has achieved so far since it took leadership in the Bay.

DA Eastern Cape leader, Nqaba Bhanga, said that they are not afraid because the Mayor has been doing a good job and on Thursday, Trollip and Lawack will remain in their positions.

He highlighted that the DA is a people’s party and they have been doing amazing things for the people of Nelson Mandela Bay including finally rolling out the City's once stagnant Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS), providing housing, fighting corruption and filling vacancies.

“Tomorrow its business as usual we are having a council to discuss issues that relate to service delivery, that relate to bringing services to the people of Nelson Mandela, there’s no vote of No confidence out of this success that will succeed," he said.

“We will leave that meeting with Mayor Athol Trollip still the mayor of the Nelson Mandela, the speaker of this council; Jonathan Lawack will also remain in his position.

“The reason I am saying this is because there are reasonable people in the council, who understand that we cannot take back the governance of this city to where we are coming from.  There’s even a book that confirms that ANC did not even still they looted in this municipality Therefore the leadership of this city and councillor understand the importance of us continuing with this project of changing South Africa.

“Why should a person be removed because he fights corruption?"

Bhanga further added that Trollip has set a very high standard that cannot be matched by anyone.

The DA further concluded that since the City of Johannesburg is running without a deputy mayor, they now also aim to adopt that method for the Nelson Mandela Bay.

“There are no prescripts that say that we must have this particular position and therefore, we are moving in that direction," said Werner Senekal, the Chief whip of the DA. 

The DA, which launched an online charm offensive highlighting its achievements since taking office and also launched an online petition in support of Trollip, will also picket out City Hall ahead of the crucial council meeting.

Image: KISS AND MAKE UP... The Patriotic Allaince's Marlon Daniels and the United Democratic Movement's Mongameli Bobani.