Bobani’s axing leaves council hung and puts brakes on decisions
Fresh from a battle where it succeeded in booting out Mongameli Bobani as deputy mayor, the Nelson Mandela Bay coalition government is facing a new crisis – it is at the mercy of opposition parties to be able to properly govern the city.
That is if the UDM follows through on its threat to pull out of the coalition should Bobani not be reinstated by Monday, and if the ANC, EFF, AIC and United Front decide to play hardball and boycott council meetings.
The DA-led coalition needs the backing of just one councillor from the opposition ranks to be able to convene a council meeting on its own and pass budgets, bylaws and other finance-related items as a 61-member majority is needed.
Currently, there is a hung council with a 60-60 member split between the coalition – excluding the UDM – and the opposition.
The seat allocations in the council are DA 57, ANC 50, EFF six, UDM two, and COPE, ACDP, United Front, AIC and PA one each.
The effects of having a hung council were evident at Thursday’s council meeting as the DA, ACDP, COPE and PA could not rubber-stamp amendments to the budget of the last financial year, as required by law, because the opposition and UDM refused to support it.
They argued that the budget changes must be debated further at committee meetings.
However, the amendments must be approved by the council by Thursday, which is the deadline for the municipality to submit its annual financial statements to the Auditor-General.
Failing to do so risks having tens of millions of rands declared unauthorised and irregular expenditure.
This would then have a negative impact on the municipality’s audit outcome for the 2016-17 financial year.
The amendments are for money that was spent in the past financial year but not necessarily on what it was originally budgeted for.
The changes then need to be regularised by the council.
Speaking about the effects of being one vote shy of an outright majority, mayor Athol Trollip said yesterday: “Now we have 60 votes in council – that makes it a hung council.
“There were a number of items that we couldn’t pass [on Thursday] because the UDM collaborated with the EFF, ANC and AIC.
“The appointment of an executive director for safety and security could not be done; there is a vacancy there and we need someone.
“We had to declare the city a disaster drought area – that was not done because there is no majority and they [opposition and UDM] walked out.
“There were also four items to regularise spending in the last financial year. We couldn’t pass those; in fact, Bobani, the EFF and the ANC rejected all of them. That will have a consequence in terms of having an [audit] qualification for this financial year,” Trollip said.
The coalition also needs the backing of the opposition if it wants to spend metro money on refurbishing the route for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
Without the support of at least one opposition councillor, it could lose the international spectacle set to take place in September next year.
If the UDM and opposition councillors choose to boycott future council meetings, it would place a number of crucial service delivery matters on hold, such as the approval of rezoning applications, land sales and acquisitions, among other things.
On Thursday, they walked out of the council meeting, effectively collapsing the sitting – but not before the DA, PA, ACDP and COPE rammed through a vote to remove Bobani.
The coalition pushed it through as the opposition and UDM were still shuffling out of the council chamber, garnering 60 votes, which was the majority of the number of councillors in the chamber at the time.
The move was slammed by the ANC and EFF, which labelled the DA as arrogant. The EFF’s national bosses said the party would not vote with the DA in the Bay until they “radically change their attitude towards other coalition partners belonging to smaller parties”.
EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “Although the EFF is not in any coalition or cooperation with the DA, we view their behaviour as a threat to coalition politics that can remove the corrupt ANC out of power even in the future.
“Above all, we warn them that their behaviour in Nelson Mandela [Bay] will affect all other municipalities where they rely on opposition parties to govern – in particular Tshwane and Johannesburg,” Ndlozi said.
Trollip responded it was the EFF’s political choice if it did not want to vote with the coalition.
“It’s fine; it’s their political choice but they also offered their votes for change.
“If they don’t vote with the coalition on principle issues and on issues that are of interest to the citizens of this city, then they would be aligning themselves with the ANC and that is not change – that is their choice,” Trollip said.
“[UDM President Bantu] Holomisa and the UDM also have to decide if they want to stay in this coalition or go out.
“But as far as we are concerned, we don’t have a coalition because Bobani and [UDM councillor Thoko] Tshangela have voted against us since January almost on every single opportunity where we had to vote.”
On Thursday, Holomisa threatened to pull out of the coalition if Bobani is not reinstated by Monday.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane responded that they would not accede to the demand and that they would support any other UDM nominee to serve on the mayoral committee.
The PA, which tabled the motion to remove Bobani on Thursday, has, meanwhile, made it clear that it still wants the deputy mayor position.
In a statement, PA national boss Gayton McKenzie said: “We want to make it clear that we didn’t remove the deputy mayor from his position in order for any other party to occupy it. The PA should and shall occupy that position.”