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Delays, screaming battles, death threats see Mayor Mongameli Bobani surviving another day

Nov 5, 2019
Delays, screaming battles, death threats see Mayor Mongameli Bobani surviving another day

Port Elizabeth - If anyone needs to cite the tricky business that often characterises coalition government arrangements, they need only look at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality where the Executive Mayor, Mongameli Bobani, on Monday survived another motion of no confidence brought against him by opposition parties.

Bobani - to give him credit, had confidently predicted that he would still be Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor at the end of the Council Meeting. It was actually bickering among Councillors, which ended up saving Bobani. 

The sight of police armoured personnel carriers blocking off access to the Feathermarket Centre in Port Elizabeth, where the Council Meeting would take place, was a hint enough that it would not be an ordinary Council sitting.

After the cancelling of the initial Special Council meeting over alleged security threats, the police were there to ensure that only vetted Councillors and members of the media are allowed into the Council Chambers. 

It was so serious that opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) Councillors were brought in by a bus from the Port Elizabeth Traffic College apparently from a secret location - for their own safety.

Arriving for the Council Meeting, Mayor Bobani was in his usual jovial spirits despite a dark cloud hanging over his head.

"We will just do the Council business - no worries, the City must relax, we are here to ensure that we are delivering services to our people. We will carry on delivering like this until 2025," he told reporters, who were there to greet him.

However, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is placed under Section 139(1) of the Constitution administration, which provides that when a municipality cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the Constitution or legislation, the relevant provincial executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation.

Bobani expressed his disappointment that his administration would be considered for a Section 139 intervention "when the Council haven't done nothing [wrong]."

"We have complied with everything that is required. We are having a Council that is functional; we are having a Council that has an Audit Committee; we are having a Council that is having an Oversight Committee; We are having a Council that has passed the Budget; we have a Council whereby all the departments are working; we are having a Council whereby all the workers are being paid; we are having a Council whereby refuse collection and everything is being done," he said.

"Now, how do you then place the Council under Section 139. This Council is functioning well. We have a Council that has adopted and approved the IDP meaning exactly that we are doing what our communities want.

"So everything is fine. We are moving right and we are excited. We are united as the black caucus - our residents love us because we are delivering exactly what they want."

Bobani promised that at this Council Meeting, the motion against him will be defeated.

"We are fine. This Council Meeting will come and go - nothng is going to change. I'm feeling confident; why must I not feel confident," he told reporters. 

"I have been experiencing these motions for quite some time now - after this one, I am also expecting another one. So at every Council Meeting, there is a motion of no confidence - I am not even worried about them because they will keep on coming until 2021.

"What matters most is that our residents are in support of this coalition government and this coalition government is united. So, we are not worried about the motions, they will keep on coming until 2021."

Chaotic Neson Mandela Bay Council Meeting

When Council business began, it became obvious it would be a long day.

After the usual banter, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Council Speaker, Buyelwa Mafaya, told Councillors that she had requested that the letter sent by Eastern Cape MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Xolile Nqatha, be tabled in council.

Nqatha's letter should be that the Eastern Cape Provincial Government on Wednesday last week decided to start implementing a Section 139 intervention in the Bay - a smudge on Bobani's leadership. 

However, ANC chief whip, Bicks Ndoni, requested for time out so that parties can meet, which was objected to by the Congress of the People (COPE) and the DA.

The DA wanted to go ahead with the items in the Agenda first, and then break to discuss the Cogta MEC's letter. The first item on the agenda was the motion of no confidence brought against Mayor Bobani.

Following exchanges between the ANC and DA, the Partriotic Alliance (PA) also supported the idea of a break.

Speaker Mafaya agreed and granted a break.

What was meant to be a break for a few minutes ended being a break for nearly an hour.

When Councillors began trickling back into the Chambers, it then ermeged that some Councillors, including Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Deputy Mayor, Thsonono Buyeye, had received death threats should they vote for Bobani's removal during the adjournment.

The meeting later resumed.

However, Mafaya was again forced to adjourn proceedings as there were differences over how to proceed following the first adjournment.

The ANC submmitted that Council first deals with the letter received from MEC Nqatha.

However, the DA objected, saying that the majority of the parties had agreed that Council should proceed with items on the agenda. The first item on the agenda the motion of no confidence against Bobani - and not the letter from Cogta.

...And the screaming matches among parties continued.

The ANC subsequently announced its withdrawal from the petition that necessitated the debate on the motion to remove Bobani as Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor.

... and the exchanges among the Councillors continued.

Despite her presence in the Council Chambers, there was also a request from some Councillors for a debate on the recent appointment of Acting City Manager, Nobuntu Mgogoshe, which some councillors feel was done illegally.

Mafaya then adjourned the meeting once again saying that she wanted to meet with the chief whips of the various parties.

ANC, EFF and AIC withdrew from motion against Bobani

When Council resumed, it then emerged that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the African Independent Congress (AIC) had subsequently joined the ANC in withdrawing from the petition to remove Bobani.

Thus, the fifth motion of no confidence against Bobani as Nelson Mandela Bay mayor looked set to fall away.

Mafaya had to leave the Council Chambers again to seek legal advice following the withdrawal of the ANC AIC amd EFF from the petition to remove Bobani.

At this time, the EFF had left the Meeting.

Despite protestations from the DA and its partners, Mafaya brought back news that the withdrawal of the other parties from the petition is now incompetent.

The opposition parties would have none of it - pointing out that the Acting City Manager, who was tasked by the Speaker to read the legal opinion, was herself 'illegal'.

Over five hours later, Councillors still had not touched a single item on the Agenda.

Eventually, the Speaker suggested that Councillors deal with the appointment of Executive Directors in the Metro and the Chief Financial Officer.

Despite initial resistance from the opposition, the public gallery was cleared for the discussions.

When the media were allowed back in, it emerged the Councillors had still failed to appoint the Executive Directors and the CFO.

Councillors also questioned the competence of the junior Advocate, who gave the legal opinion on the petition to remove Bobani, saying he was not on the Advoctates roll.

The Speaker, asked for another break apparently to discuss on Council failing to appoint senior managers. 

Following more exchanges, Mafaya said that she had come to the conclusion that the meeting was incompetent. That was as parties awaited the debate on the motion to remove Mayor Bobani.

Still, the DA-led opposition insisted on waiting for a second legal opinion from a Senior Advocate - it was a long wait...

When it came, the second legal opinion stated that if the majority of Councillors withdrew their initial request for the meeting prior to the commencement of that meeting, then the meeting would have been irregularly convened.

Opposition parties were up in arms, insisting that only the EFF had withdrawn from the meeting prior to it starting. They said the Senior Advocate had been misled.

The ANC broke out in song as the Speaker left the building once more. The party also asked the public gallery to leave as they wanted to caucus.

After remaining seated for some time, the DA, COPE and ACDP finally packed their bags -  it became obvious the meeting had collapsed.

At the end of a long day, motion of no confidence against Mayor Mongameli Bobani was never tabled and Councillors failed to appoint permanant Executive Directors and a permanant Chief Financial Officer.

In a celebratory mood, Bobani took to his Twitter, to remind former Mayor, Athol Trollip, whom he ousted that he is retired.



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