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Athol Trollip or Mongameli Bobani - PE High Court to determine who the real Mayor is

Sep 13, 2018
Athol Trollip or Mongameli Bobani - PE High Court to determine who the real Mayor is

Is it Athol Trollip or is it Mongameli Bobani? The Port Elizabeth High Court is expected on Thursday to tell eager Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality residents, business and other stakeholders, who the real Executive Mayor is following the ousting of the Democratic Alliance (DA) led coalition government about two weeks ago.

By any measure, the African National Congress (ANC) was the biggest winner finding itself back in power just two years after it was defeated in the 2016 Local Government Elections.

The DA and its coalition partners want the Port Elizabeth High Court to overturn the election of the United Democratic Movement's (UDM), Mongameli Bobani, as the new Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality executive Mayor. Bobani has since appointed an ANC-dominated Mayoral Committee.

Trollip and the DA's coalition partners, the Congress Of the People (COPE), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) are hopeful that the Port Elizabeth High Court will on Thursday take their side and declare Bobani's election on the 27th of August null and void.

On that fateful day, Bobani, who once served as Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Deputy Executive Mayor until he had a fall out with Trollip, moved the motion against the DA’s Jonathan Lawack, who was serving as Speaker, which was seconded by the EFF.

During the voting, a DA Councillor, Victor Manyathi abstained from voting - effectively handing the opposition parties a 60/59 win when the votes were tallied.

He claimed that; "Most of the black DA Councillors are planning on moving away from the DA - it's not only me, but others when they move away from the DA, they are being victimised.”

Their legal challenge is based on Section 36(3) of the Municipal Structures Act (117 of 1998), which states that, “The municipal manager of the municipality or, if the municipal manager is not available, a person designated by the MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs in the province, presides over the election of a speaker”.

"After City Manager, Johann Mettler, left the chamber having declared that the meeting did not quorate, Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Fikile Xasa, erroneously invoked Section 36(3) and designated an individual to preside over one item: The election of a Speaker," the parties argue. 

"It is an undisputed truth that the City Manager, Johann Mettler, was in fact at all times available and remained so for the full duration of this unlawfully convened continuation of said council meeting.

"As such, the election of a new Speaker, the subsequent passing of a Motion of No Confidence in the Executive Mayor, the election of a new Executive Mayor and the election of a Deputy Executive Mayor, were all illegal and invalid."

However, the ANC claims the DA coalition is destined to fail – claiming that more DA councillors want to resign from the party.

According to ANC Nelson Mandela Bay Regional Secretary, Themba Xathula, the DA-led court challenge “is all about Athol Trollip – to defend his shattered ego".

While the DA and its coalition partners announced that they will boycott last week’s Council meeting, which they labelled as 'illegitimate', two DA councillors showed up to everyone's surprise, one with a letter notifying the Council of his intention to resign from the DA – perhaps giving credibility to Manyathi’s claims.

As expected, the DA said it will take swift action against the two Councillors - Trevor Louw and Neville Higgins, for defying the party’s order to boycott Friday’s Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Council meeting.

Xathula on Wednesday claimed that there are more unhappy councillors in the DA caucus that have signalled that they will also be jumping ship - “just watch the space.”

“The unhappy DA councillors cite the rampant and overt racism that they experience everyday within the DA as the primary reason for their unhappiness.

“They tell us that councillor Lawack was sworn at and blamed for the humiliation the DA led coalition suffered when they lost control of the Metro,” he said.

According to Xathula, the omission of Lawack’s name in the court papers that have been filed against Bobani’s administration has become an issue within the local DA.

“In the court papers challenging their defeat, the DA makes no mention of the removal of Speaker Lawack as an issue. He is thrown under the bus as it were because of the colour of his skin. The court challenge by the DA is all about Athol Trollip – to defend his shattered ego.”

Last week, at the first Council Meeting since the removal of the DA-led coalition, Councillors agreed to a motion brought by the ANC that action be taken against former Mayor, Trollip, over the PriceWaterhouseCoopers probe that he used as a basis to have Bobani ousted as Deputy Mayor.

While Trollip kept the report and findings, which Bobani claimed had not implicated him in any fraud or corruption, it was later leaked to local media.

“The ANC supports the council decision to take disciplinary action against Councillor Athol Trollip for illegally leaking confidential council information. Section 10 of Shedule 1 of the Municipal Systems Act, 32 of 2000 states that: ‘A councillor may not without the permission of the municipal council or a committee disclose any privileged or confidential information of the council or committee to any unauthorised person’,” Xathula said. 

He added that when Trollip “leaked the confidential council documents to James Selfe and Musi Maimane, Councillor Athol Trollip was in breach of this Code of Conduct for councillors”.

“All must be seen to be treated equally before the law.”

Xathula also said that the party was also in support of the council decision to investigate the incident involving former Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality MMC for Human Settlements, Nqaba Bhanga’s body guard.

“In particular, the public needs to know whether it is true that councillor Bhanga was in a tarven when this accident happened? Also the public needs to know whether or not that the body guard was sent to fetch Nqaba Bhanga’s young female acquaintance?” Xathula added.

“This is particularly necessary given Mr Bhanga’s ambition to be the DA Premier of the Eastern Cape.

“The ANC takes note of the narrative perpetrated by the media that seeks to paint black people as corrupt and whites as not corrupt. This is evident when this newspaper declared that the first thing that Bobani asked for when he assumed the high office was to be shown the tenders.”

Responding to reports suggesting the new administration was interfering with the filling of vacanices and tender processes, he said that it is normal when new political heads of departments to ask the administration head about the state of the portfolio they are inheriting.

“The DA political heads did the same when they took over in 2016. They did not seek this information from the Municipal Manager,” Xathula described.

“There is no way that a Municipal Manager can know each and every vacant post in each and every department, only Executive Directors can.

“The ANC will continue to support this progressive coalition as long as they deliver quality service to all our people and holding all councillors accountable without fear or favour.”