Port Elizabeth – The balance of power in Nelson Mandela Bay was put to the test on Thursday when two former coalition members, the UDM’s Mongameli Bobani and the Patriotic Alliance’s (PA) Marlon Daniels, voted against the DA-led coalition in council in a vote around 2017’s international Ironman competition in the city.
The council meeting was originally scheduled to take place on September 21, but the coalition failed to make quorum, which is 61 out of the total 120 councillors, after parties, including the UDM, decided to stay away.
With the UDM and the PA currently voting with the opposition, the DA coalition is down to 59 votes of the 120.
On Thursday morning, a small group of protesters gathered outside the council chambers, calling for Mayor Athol Trollip to be removed.
Vote for deputy mayor not on agenda
Inside, council was delayed as members of the opposition, including Bobani, asked for clarity on why the issue of the vote for a new deputy mayor was not on the agenda.
EFF councillor Yoliswa Yako pointed out that the minutes from the previous meeting in August, where Bobani was voted out, said that the issue of deputy mayor would be voted on at the next meeting.
The PA’s Daniels pointed out that this was not due to an administrative error.
“I am saying, this particular item of the deputy mayor is not reflecting in the agenda. Someone needs to explain why they chose for it not to reflect on the agenda.
“The mayor doesn’t want to deal with it,” said Daniels.
DA chief whip Werner Senekal said while the matter was recorded in the minutes, the coalition was not ready to proceed with the matter as it was still before the courts. Bobani disputed this.
Trollip then addressed the council, reiterating what Senekal had said, but Bobani called him a liar, saying that the matter was not before the courts.
Balance of power 50/50
While the matter of the deputy mayor was not placed on the agenda, a vote for the appointment of a coordinator for next year’s international Ironman competition revealed how close matters were.
The coalition managed to secure 59 votes in favour, while the opposition, led by the ANC and supported by the UDM, AIC, PA and the EFF, secured 59 votes.
The motion was passed with the vote of speaker Jonathan Lewack, who holds a deciding vote in cases where there is a tie, as long as the matter is not financial.
The opposition would have had the majority, had two ANC councillors, including Andile Lungisa, not been off sick.
Coalition in Mandela Bay in tatters
Bobani, who insisted on being addressed as deputy mayor when he was acknowledged by the speaker to address council, kept on highlighting that the coalition only had 59 votes and threatened to collapse the meeting.
Asked during a break whether the UDM was still part of the coalition, Bobani said it was clear that Trollip did not want him in the coalition.
“You can see Trollip doesn’t want me to be in the coalition. The fact that he put [mayoral committee member Siyasanga] Sijadu in my seat [makes it clear].
“Trollip hates me so much. He doesn’t even want me to sit next to him, in my seat. I am still the executive deputy mayor until the courts decide otherwise,” he said.
“He has thrown me out of the coalition. What must I do? He doesn’t want me.”
Holomisa calls for Bobani to be reinstated
In an open letter to DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Wednesday, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa questioned the way in which the DA-led coalition had handled the matter of Bobani’s ousting.
Referring to CCTV footage of the council proceedings in August, Holomisa questioned the speaker’s insistence that only one councillor per political party be allowed to speak on the matter, despite numerous objections.
“The DA professes to be proponents of democracy, but we fail to understand how, what happened on that fateful day, could be considered democracy.
“It appears as if this matter was just steamrolled through council to suit a hidden agenda. We now know what that agenda had been, after we heard why the PA withdrew from your separate and bilateral ‘coalition agreement’,” said Holomisa.
Holomisa then asked Maimane if the ousting was perhaps a mistake on the DA’s part and whether Maimane was prepared to rectify the mistake by immediately reinstating Bobani as deputy executive mayor.