Removal as deputy mayor could follow axing as health head
The UDM’s Mongameli Bobani was fired yesterday by mayor Athol Trollip as a member of the mayoral committee in charge of the public health portfolio, in a dramatic move that signals the start of the breakdown of the coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay.
However, Bobani remains deputy mayor until the full council decides otherwise – and Trollip says there are plans to table a motion in council to have him stripped of this title, too.
Bobani’s axing from the public health portfolio follows an ultimatum sent to UDM president Bantu Holomisa on Friday to expel Bobani and replace him with someone else by noon yesterday, or he would be removed from Trollip’s executive.
The DA, with its COPE and ACDP coalition partners, would need the backing of other opposition parties to pass the motion to strip Bobani of the deputy mayor title at the next council meeting, scheduled for Tuesday.
The tensions between Trollip and Bobani have spilt over to the parties’ national bosses, with Holomisa saying the move could be considered a violation of the spirit of the coalition agreement and that the ultimatum smacked of a style of leadership he thought was a thing of the past.
While Trollip said at a media briefing last night he had heard that Holomisa had informed DA leader Mmusi Maimane of the UDM’s withdrawal from the coalition, Holomisa denied this vehemently, saying all coalition party leaders had to meet to discuss the “unsustainable” situation.
“They have to follow the procedures,” he said. “We are not out of the coalition yet.
“We want that meeting of the leaders involved in the coalition – not just the UDM and DA.
“Of the people who are accused of destroying that coalition, it could easily be said it’s Trollip himself because I told Maimane that if we are going to be tossed around like small boys, we will not be part of that nonsense.
“Maimane must deal with Trollip, who is seemingly a bully and doesn’t like to listen to anybody.
“Trollip can instruct DA members, but we are not accountable to him. Who the hell does he think he is?” Holomisa said.
But Trollip showed journalists a thick file he said contained evidence of Bobani’s unacceptable behaviour over the past few months as well as legal opinions pertaining to his actions.
“A replacement mayoral committee member will be announced in due course and, until then, the [public health] directorate will be placed under my direct political leadership,” Trollip said.
He listed a range of instances when Bobani allegedly conducted himself in a manner inconsistent with that of a coalition partner, which included disrupting or failing to turn up at meetings.
Trollip said the unfounded allegations of corruption against him and other senior municipal officials was the last straw.
“The mayoral executive committee requested councillor Bobani to withdraw the allegations of corruption against me and apologise to me and the mayoral committee. He refused.
“This is regarded as a unilateral declaration of exclusion from this mayoral committee.”
In his letter to Bobani yesterday afternoon, informing him of his decision to remove him as public health portfolio head, Trollip wrote: “You have chosen to publicly oppose the collective decisions of the coalition government and the mayoral committee.
“You have done so publicly and in council, and have not once provided a coherent or legal reason for doing so.
“There are also very serious allegations of impropriety and maladministration in your directorate that are being investigated without so much as an explanation to me or the mayoral committee about what is going on.
“Your behaviour in public meetings has also become untenable and inconsistent with someone who holds such high office in this administration.”
Bobani declined to comment, referring questions to Holomisa.
Holomisa said last night that neither the DA nor the ANC had won the local government elections outright and had thus not been given the mandate to run the city on their own.
“If they think they are just going to use us to ascend to power and then dump us, it’s not going to happen,” Holomisa said.
Asked if the feud over the Bay could affect the coalition agreement at a national level, he said it was too early to say as he had not yet thought about pulling out.
UDM structures would, meanwhile, have to decide if they still wanted to serve under the current environment, he said.
The dramatic events which unfolded yesterday follow months of escalating tension between Trollip and Bobani and a series of attempts by their parties’ national bosses to intervene.
The two have been at loggerheads for months, differing on almost everything – from governance issues to staff appointments and budget spending.
On Friday, the DA’s federal executive chairman, James Selfe, wrote to Holomisa, saying he must redeploy or remove Bobani as councillor for his “erratic” and “destructive” behaviour.
Selfe believes Bobani is the problem in the ongoing feud and that removing him will end the rifts which have become increasingly untenable in recent weeks.
Holomisa rejected the ultimatum, saying the tone was autocratic and he would not be told what to do.
In a letter to Maimane on Friday, Holomisa said he had been “taken aback by the threatening ultimatum” as the political principals had decided at their last intervention meeting to get two legal fundis to get to the bottom of the standoff between Trollip and Bobani.
Earlier yesterday, when asked about the way forward for the DA and UDM’s relationship, Holomisa said: “Tell James Selfe to leave me alone.”
In a second letter to Maimane, sent yesterday afternoon, Holomisa said the UDM would not be intimidated into submission.
“There is a real risk that the coalition government might fall completely apart because of the unilateral decisions the DA is making,” he wrote.
“This will, in turn, relegate the citizens of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro to the service delivery dearth of the past.
“In the meantime, councillor Trollip should be made to suspend all his efforts to oust councillor Bobani until the meeting of leaders can take place.”
But Selfe said suggestions made to Holomisa during coalition discussions were not followed through.
“There is a compelling case on Mr Bobani’s erratic behaviour – it does not require mediation by anyone, but decisive action to remove Bobani,” he said.
“We have been talking about this for six months; it has been brewing for months. “This relationship is dysfunctional.” Selfe said he did not believe the Bay coalition problems would affect the national agreement between the parties.
The ANC, which is the official opposition in the Bay, said they were not in talks with other opposition parties to form a coalition in the Bay should the existing coalition government collapse.
ANC caucus leader Bicks Ndoni said: “We are very careful and cautious, we don’t want to be seen as desperate because we lost the elections.
“The discussion I always [have with] our councillors is, let’s first accept that we have lost the elections.
“There are credibility issues that are affecting the ANC.
“We could get into a coalition with other parties, it may not be a stable coalition. We may find ourselves faced with the very same issues that are affecting the DA-led coalition,” he said. – Additional reporting by Johnnie Isaac