Mayor asks EFF leader to visit Bay
With his mayorship at stake, Athol Trollip has invited Julius Malema to visit Nelson Mandela Bay, in a last-ditch effort to sway the EFF leader against the planned motion to unseat him.
“Show our people that you really understand and care for their issues and hear from them yourself whether they want the ANC back in government in their city.”
This was the emphatic plea from Trollip in a three-page letter to Malema yesterday.
In it, he detailed how he had admired the EFF leader for his resolute stance to maintain his party’s independence while holding the ANC to account for “its corrupt ways”.
He said there had been a growing level of trust between the DA-led coalition and six EFF councillors in the Bay over the last 19 months.
EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi did not respond to a request for comment on Trollip’s letter and EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee could not be reached.
In the letter, Trollip expressed his confusion that Malema was punishing him, the DA-led coalition and residents of the Bay for holding a different ideological position on land and “the offensive colour of my skin”.
“These two things have been unchanged and self-evident since the first day of our discussions post the 2016 elections.
“In fact, you stated that you chose to cooperate with the ‘better of two devils’.
“From one political leader to another, I think that you might have made a mistake with your latest threat and that you might have misread the national mood.
“If the DA had changed its position or my skin colour had changed, you might have had reason for your change of heart – this has, however, not happened,” Trollip wrote.
When DA leader Mmusi Maimane visited the Bay on Sunday he, too, emphasised that Trollip’s skin colour should not matter.
He said Trollip’s skin colour had not changed since the EFF voted with the coalition partners for him to be mayor.
Trollip and DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga, while scheduled to join Maimane as per the programme of events, were notably absent from Maimane’s voter registration campaigning in the Bay.
This was unprecedented for the party and raised questions about the dynamics in the DA around the party’s position on the proposed motion against Trollip.
A senior party insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said: “The mayor was around PE, but Maimane didn’t see him. “There is no way that the federal leader can come to your constituency and you are not there to receive him.
“The problem is the federal leadership has taken a stance that they are prepared to be in the opposition rather than cower to Malema’s blackmail. That is not something the mayor would take well to.”
DA federal council chairman James Selfe has openly said in the media the DA was prepared to return to the opposition benches if it could not reach an agreement with the EFF on the land expropriation issue.
Another DA insider said Trollip’s relationship with Maimane was not strained, but they probably differed on matters pertaining to the upcoming federal congress.
denied that there were tensions between him and Maimane, saying he had explained to Maimane and the provincial leadership that he was unavailable to join him on Sunday.
“I worked hard on the registration campaign on Saturday,” he said.
Asked if there were tensions within the party due to the DA’s hard-nosed approach to the EFF’s motion and the willingness to be back in the opposition, Trollip said there was no tension.
“We are all on the same page as far as this is concerned. I have never missed a leader’s visit before in 15 years as provincial leader – this was a unique and singular instance,” Trollip said.
Questioned about Trollip’s whereabouts on Sunday, DA provincial chairman Andrew Whitfield said at the time that the mayor was at church.
Bhanga, who was also a no-show on Sunday, said he was in Cape Town on party business.
Meanwhile, in his letter to Malema, Trollip said the coalition had made “extraordinary strides” in delivering services in the Bay.
“We have also done especially well in exposing and stopping corruption.
“All this has happened whilst working with a competent, confident and hard-working group of EFF councillors who have played their part as opposition councillors exceptionally well and have outshone all the other opposition parties in this regard.
“We have also recently appointed one of your councillors to chair the municipal public accounts committee,” Trollip wrote.
In the first few paragraphs of the letter, he wrote how he had been impressed, during the coalition negotiations, that when Malema gave his word, he stuck to it. But further on, he called him out for his change of heart.
He said if the country truly embraced Malema’s “radically divisive rhetoric”, his party would have fared better in national and municipal elections.
“In fact, your performance in byelections recently shows that the people of our country do not espouse this racial invective.
“You appear to want to hand this city back to the ANC, which they had tried by every means possible to ruin.
“You used to call the EFF ‘the government in waiting’, now you want to give your arch political foe the city that rejected them, on a platter.
“This looks much like a peace penance and perhaps the path back into the party fold that you once swore never to leave,” Trollip said.
He invited Malema to see for himself if residents in the city wanted the ANC back at the helm.
Malema has said the EFF would support an ANC mayor if it was a credible candidate with integrity.
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