No secret vote in anti-Trollip motion

Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip
Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip
Image: Brian Witbooi

Next week’s vote on the motion to remove Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip will not be cast through a secret ballot, after council speaker Jonathan Lawack on Thursday refused the EFF’s request for councillors to vote in secret on Tuesday.

“He [Lawack] is refusing to give us the secret ballot,” EFF councillor Zilindile Vena said yesterday.

The speaker’s decision has prompted the EFF to seek legal advice on how to get its way.

The EFF believes there may be DA councillors willing to vote against Trollip if they were allowed to do so anonymously.

Meanwhile, anticipating the possibility of a tie in the outcome of the vote, the EFF last week challenged Lawack’s assertion that, as the speaker, he had the right to cast a deciding vote.

In its letter, the EFF told Lawack that he did not as the speaker have the right to cast a deciding vote.

The party based this on a 2015 Constitutional Court judgment in a matter between the Oudtshoorn municipality and the Western Cape MEC for cooperative governance.

In that case the court declared that in the event of a tie, the speaker did not have the power to cast a deciding vote on matters relating to:

  •  the passing of by-laws,
  • the approval of budgets,
  • the imposition of rates and other taxes, levies, duties, and
  • the raising of loans.

The court said these were weighty matters which could not be decided by a speaker’s casting vote.

In such matters, the council would have to find other ways to come to a consensus.

The EFF believes that the removal of a mayor should be regarded as a weighty issue.

Although the judgment did not explicitly say so, the party’s interpretation of the court’s decision is such that weighty issues are not limited to the four listed in the constitution.

EFF MPL Yazini Tetyana said the Constitutional Court judgment did not state that weighty matters were limited to the four it listed in the ruling.

He said they regarded their motion to remove the mayor as such.

“The Constitutional Court does not say weighty issues are limited to these items and our letter was formed on the basis of this judgment.

“We regard this as a weighty issue and we’re going to seek legal advice before the special council meeting,” he said.

Lawack said the EFF did not read the judgment properly as it clearly stated that the speaker had a casting vote on all other matters besides the four weighty issues listed in the ruling.

“I do have a casting vote and rule 18 of Section 30 says this,” Lawack said.

“You can’t take that right away from the speaker, it’s been give to the speaker by the law.”

On Wednesday, the EFF said should Lawack refuse the request for a secret ballot, the party would approach the courts to challenge the rationality of his reasons.

On Thursday, Vena said the EFF would seek legal advice on how to move forward.