Tempers flare as Bobani sides with the opposition to block coalition proposals
Hours after brokering a peace deal to save the coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay, the DA and the UDM were at each other’s throats at a tense council meeting, when tempers flared and insults were hurled.
The DA, with its coalition partners COPE and the ACDP, were dealt several blows yesterday and were at the mercy of the opposition parties, which had the UDM on their side.
The coalition government, without a clear 61-member majority, battled to pass a number of agenda items – from rezoning applications to land sales, leases and a R24-million debt write-off proposal for the Kouga Municipality.
They were forced to defer some items that were on the table for discussion as it became apparent that the opposition parties, with the UDM, had the majority.
All the parties agreed, however, to a R15-million bailout for the EP Rugby Union to help with its financial woes.
The money will be paid in tranches of R5-million over three years.
The tension was palpable from the start of the council meeting as the UDM and DA clashed, despite assurances from party leaders the night before that all the coalition partners were committed to making the government work.
The coalition partners – the DA, UDM, Freedom Front Plus, ACDP and COPE – said in a joint statement on Monday night that a committee comprising members from each partner would be set up to deal with coalition matters.
But things played out differently at yesterday’s meeting, as deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani (UDM), who arAbout rived with a host of supporters outside the Wool Board Exchange council chambers, differed with his coalition partners at every turn, even referring to mayor Athol Trollip as dishonest.
Bobani also clashed with speaker Jonathan Lawack, who tried to kick him out of the meeting when he accused Lawack of abusing his powers by not allowing a vote on some of the proposals of the EFF and ANC.
Bobani refused to leave, saying: “I’m not going anywhere. I am the deputy executive mayor.
“I am not going, unless you want to collapse the meeting.”
About 100 Bobani supporters danced outside and sang songs insulting Trollip.
One of his supporters, Nontobeko Speelman, 45, of Veeplaas, said: “We don’t want Trollip as mayor – he is dishonest and runs this city like a farm. He needs to understand that this is a coalition and that he cannot take decisions alone.
“When he came in as mayor he said he would work for the people, but this has not been the case.”
Another supporter, Bandile Thuyesi, said: “We are here to find out what exactly is happening.
“We also want Trollip to know that he is wrong. This is a coalition government, who does he think he is to just make decisions alone?”
The crowd cheered as Bobani finally addressed them about two hours later. “I am very pleased to see you here in your numbers,” Bobani said.
“No one will tell the UDM what to do, only you can tell the UDM what to do. You have won this round.”
Meanwhile, inside the building, Bobani was cheered on by the ANC and a few of the other opposition parties, who chanted “mayor, mayor, mayor” as he passed them.
They also sang songs that, loosely translated, said: “We don’t want Trollip as mayor, we want Bobani.”
The division in the meeting was yet another display of the deep rifts within the city’s coalition government which Trollip has described as untenable. Several breaks and adjournments had to be called as the parties struggled to reach agreements.
At one point, Trollip asked for a caucus break to allow political parties time to ensure they were following the proper mandates of their political parties, saying they should check with their principals.
During one of the breaks, DA leader Mmusi Maimane sent out a media statement, condemning Bobani’s behaviour as “completely unacceptable” and “against the very spirit of our coalition agreement”.
He said: “It has become clear that councillor Bobani is not committed to governing for the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, and instead seeks to continue his disruptive and divisive behaviour which is unbecoming of a deputy mayor.
“In almost every way possible, Bobani has acted to undermine the coalition government … and his behaviour today requires that stern action must be taken against him.
“We, therefore, insist the UDM takes urgent and immediate action against councillor Bobani, and that this matter be resolved so that the council meeting can reconvene and get on with the business of delivering services to the people of Nelson Mandela Bay.”
Bobani did not want to comment on the statement by Maimane, instead referring questions to UDM president Bantu Holomisa.
Holomisa said he did not understand the purpose of Maimane’s statement as the meeting had not collapsed. “Maimane jumped the gun. We cannot always jump when mayor Trollip calls us,” he said.
Holomisa said if Maimane had any complaints, he should refer them to the small committee that they had established on Monday night.
Trollip said after the council meeting that Bobani’s behaviour yesterday reinforced every complaint he had laid against him with the national leadership.
“His conduct is not that of a coalition partner but of an enemy behind our lines,” he said.
“It’s like being in a circular firing squad – it’s an untenable situation.
“What happened here today sobered everyone at a national leadership level to what is going on because there were some people who had a blind spot with regards to councillor Bobani.
“Bantu Holomisa, in particular, has a blind spot to councillor Bobani.
“In fact, what happened today was all an exposé of what has transpired here over the last five months.
“There’s been horse-trading here on issue by issue by councillor Bobani wanting to put his own agenda first and not the agenda of the electorate. Clearly, councillor Bobani does not want to respect the mandate for clean governance,” Trollip said.
Bobani maintained earlier in the day that his relationship with Trollip was working.
“Do you want us to kiss to show you?” he said.