Battle in high court over ousting of DA councillors
A convoluted legal battle between the DA and the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, former acting municipal manager Noxolo Nqwazi and others over the fate of three councillors who turned against the party played out in the Port Elizabeth High Court.
The various parties homed in on issues related to the ousting of the councillors – Victor Manyati, Trevor Louw and Neville Higgins – from the DA and the processes that followed.
Legal counsel for the three claimed that the termination of their membership was not valid.
The DA brought the urgent application for the court to declare that three vacancies were open and compel the municipality to advertise this as such.
Advocate Anthony Stein for the DA said the three councillors had had their memberships revoked after the party followed the necessary steps.
They had accordingly lost their positions in the council, which meant new councillors would need to be appointed.
Stein said Louw and Higgins were ward councillors, so by-elections needed to be held.
Manyati was a proportional representation councillor selected by the DA. With his ousting from the party the next person on the list of candidates would then take his place.
Legal counsel for the three men, advocate Dali Mpofu, argued that the manner in which Manyati was stripped of his membership was unlawful and that the DA had no right to remove him – particularly after an earlier ruling by high court judge Johann Huisaman confirmed Manyati’s membership “unless he resigns”.
Stein said the DA’s constitution was clear and in line with the country’s constitution, in that if party members lose their membership due to a variety of reasons, including if they publicly declare their intention to resign, their intention to join another party or vote in a manner other than with the party caucus, then they automatically lose their positions in council.
“The [SA] constitution puts the party in charge of its decisions in regard to the termination of memberships.
“The municipal manager cannot decide if it was a fair termination or not,” Stein said.
He said Nqwazi failed in her duty to relieve the men of their positions in council and make the necessary announcements and advertisements.
Stein claimed that Nqwazi had advertised the vacancies in regard to Higgins and Louw only after reading the DA’s founding affidavit.
Advocate Jason Mitchell for Nqwazi, the municipality and the municipal manager said the DA could have avoided the court process if it had given Nqwazi the appropriate documents on the stripping of membership of the three men, which he claimed, was all she had requested from the start.
Judge Elna Revelas reserved judgment.