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Is it Trollip - is it Bobani? Port Elizabeth High Court to rule on who is Mayor

By Afikile Lugunya - Sep 19, 2018
Is it Trollip - is it Bobani? Port Elizabeth High Court to rule on who is Mayor

Is Athol Trollip or Mongameli Bobani the true Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor? The Port Elizabeth High Court is expected on Thursday to rule on the legal challenge brought before the courts by Trollip and the Democratic Alliance (DA) led coalition against the new administration led by Bobani.

It follows the dramatic events that unfolded at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s Council Meeting of 27 August, which later saw the ousting of Trollip, as Mayor, and the DA-led coalition government.

In Trollip’s place, opposition councillors, led by the African National Congress (ANC), elected Bobani and the ANC’s Tshonono Buyeye as his new Deputy.

Bobani subsequently announced an ANC-dominated Mayoral Committee.

The ANC was indeed the biggest winner finding itself back in power just two years after it was defeated in the 2016 Local Government Elections.

The ANC's Andile Lungisa on why Trollip lost to Bobani

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.”

The DA coalition’s 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, said 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 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.

Even if the Democratic Alliance led-coalition were to win the case, they still don't seem to have the numbers to retain their positions if another motion of no confidence is to be quickly brought against them after coalition partner, the Patriotic Alliance jumped ship last week on top of the Councillors that signalled they intend to leave the DA.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Bobani had some damage control to do after apparently stating that the Metro's budget for the next financial year will be spent in the townships. 

All will be decided by Judge Johann Huisamen on Thursday at 9:30am.

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