The motions of no confidence to remove Trollip, Speaker Jonathan Lawack, committee chairpersons and Chief Whip Werner Seneka ended before they officially began.
The first 80 minutes of the council sitting, which was to hear the motions after they descended into chaos two weeks ago, saw opposition parties squabble and criticise the mayor and speaker as the day started with tributes to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Chris Hani and Solomon Mahlangu.
Opposition councillors told Lawack that he must be objective. The speaker warned them not to interrupt. “Please do not push me to that point,” he said, warning that he would adjourn the session if there was a repeat of the 29 March sitting.
There were disputes over the time allotted to the tributes and whether the city had lowered its flags to half-mast. In between their earnest salutes to Madikizela-Mandela, Hani and Mahlangu, opposition councillors jibed and laughed.
The ANC and EFF interrupted PA (Patriotic Alliance) Councillor Marlon Daniels, who would probably save the DA-led administration after switching his allegiances. But the sitting essentially came to a close when the DA’s Eastern Cape leader, Councillor Nqaba Bhanga, offered his condolences.
Bhanga was drowned out as councillors hummed over him. Some called him a murderer and refused to listen, referring to the two girls killedin a car accident with his bodyguard. The DA gave Bhanga a standing ovation.
Turning to the official business of the day, Lawack said he would not take points of order. Hands shot up; the sitting became confused.
“Councillors, you are collapsing this meeting,” said Lawack. “You’re the one collapsing this meeting,” they shouted back.
Lawack abruptly said the meeting was “permanently adjourned”, suggesting that opposition councillors will have to resubmit their motions of no confidence and petition the speaker before they can be reheard.
The balance of forces appeared to be on the DA’s side. Before the meeting, it was reportedthat the DA might have won support from the United Front and African Independent Congress (AIC), along with its coalition partners, the ACDP and Cope, as well as the commitment from the Patriotic Alliance. That would have given the party the edge over the ANC, EFF and UDM, which left the DA-led coalition after Mongameli Bobani was removed as deputy mayor.
The AIC apparently switched its support in protest against the ANC’s failure to incorporate Matatiele municipality from Eastern Cape back into KwaZulu-Natal.
The EFF, which the DA didn’t need in the city after the 2016 elections but came into play after the UDM switched sides, brought the no-confidence motion against Trollip because the DA didn’t support the land expropriation without compensation motion in Parliament and because Trollip is white.
After the sitting wsa adjourned, Trollip claimed the ANC was trying to cripple the council with an ulterior motive. Last year the ANC called on the Eastern Cape government to put the city under administration, claiming infighting had stifled service delivery.
“That’s clearly it’s objective here, to bring the city to its knees,” said Trollip. “The ANC lost the city and they want to try and get it back by introducing administration led by the Bhisho government. We reject that entirely. We are not going to let the ANC take the city back through the back door.”
Nelson Mandela Bay ANC spokesperson Gift Ngqondi said there had been no governance in the city for two months and “residents of Nelson Mandela Bay have been sitting on the sidelines”. However, he said the DA must be removed through a no-confidence motion rather than putting the city under administration.
The work of the city has been interrupted as the DA has failed to secure a majority of the 120 seat council and meetings have been disrupted, but Trollip believed “more sober” opposition parties would offer their support.
“We are going back to work,” said the mayor, who was re-elected DA federal chairperson on the weekend.
“We are not going to be held to ransom in that council chamber by people who don’t have the courage of their convictions or the support for their chaotic, and disrespectful and unacceptable behaviour.”
While Trollip was addressing the media, the ANC, EFF and UDM remained in the council chambers. They claimed the DA wanted to collapse the meeting. But although Lawack’s adjournment was abrupt, it seemed it was the opposition councillors who created most of the confusion.
The ANC, EFF and UDM said they would continue with their motions to remove the DA leaders.
“I think as they saw today, we have a speaker who does not have patience, a speaker who is guided by the mayor, a speaker who is guided only by the DA,” said the ANC’s Andile Lungisa. “It is the agenda of the DA to deadlock this meeting. They do not want to continue with this meeting. It’s what they did even in the last council meeting.”
The EFF’s Zilindile Vena claimed DA members wanted to vote with the opposition and the party therefore had to collapse the sitting. Bobani said they didn’t collapse the meeting and will continue with their motions in the next council sitting.
Trollip has now survived two sittings that have failed to discuss the motion of no confidence against him. He’s safe, for now, but as the balance of forces continue to swing and the ANC, EFF and UDM have frustrated progress, the city’s future remains unclear. DM
Athol Trollip file photo supplied by Democratic Alliance