A deal was clinched in Cape Town last night to save the Nelson Mandela Bay coalition from the brink of collapse.
The talks by the national leaders of the coalition – comprising the DA, UDM, Freedom Front Plus, ACDP and COPE – were a last-ditch effort to resolve the impasse created by the showdown between mayor Athol Trollip and his deputy, Mongameli Bobani.
Trollip had said last week they would table a motion in the council to remove Bobani as deputy, while Bobani was said to be lobbying opposition parties to not only reject such a move, but rather support a bid to remove Trollip as mayor.
The escalating battle between the DA’s Trollip and UDM’s Bobani reached boiling point when the deputy mayor was ousted as a member of the mayoral committee in charge of the public health portfolio.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa objected, saying the DA could not act independently from other alliance partners.
The mayor and his deputy have been at loggerheads over various issues and have paralysed the stability of the metro.
After last night’s meeting, the coalition parties issued a joint statement affirming their commitment to the coalition government.
They also agreed to set up a committee made up of members from each partner to deal with coalition matters.
Holomisa said the committee would investigate the allegations Trollip and Bobani were making against each other.
“If anyone among them has been found guilty of flaunting the procedures, the party that has deployed that individual will be expected to take disciplinary action,” he said.
The statement by the coalition partners said: “A small committee of members from each party to the coalition has been formed to keep open communications and to discuss matters within the coalition, so that our relations grow stronger.
“This committee will begin by considering the issues raised in NMB recently between the mayor and deputy mayor.
“To this end, the ultimatum put to the United Democratic Movement to remove the deputy mayor has been withdrawn between the parties, and instead the small committee will resolve the matter.
“All parties affirmed the strength of our relations, and the importance of building the best relations between ourselves for the benefit of South Africa.”
But while Holomisa said the agreement was also meant to reverse the removal of Bobani from the mayoral committee and as the political head for public health, the DA held a different view.
Trollip said the deal did not change his action to remove Bobani from the public health portfolio.
“The status quo remains, councillor Bobani is no longer the public health MMC,” he said.
“His deputy mayor position remains until the conclusion of the investigation by the three independent coalition members.”
DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s acting spokesman, Graham Charters, said: “The decision to remove Bobani was not part of the deal.
“Since it was the mayoral committee’s decision, it can only be considered by that committee.”
However, when this was put to him again later, Holomisa insisted that Trollip must get clarity from the DA leadership that was part of the meeting on what had been agreed upon.
“Everything emanated from the letter he wrote to us, giving the reasons he is removing Bobani, and we have agreed that it must be reversed,” he said.