Nwabisa Makunga: Can’t afford mindless strife

By now it is common cause that the relationship between Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip and his deputy, Mongameli Bobani, has completely broken down.

While I subscribe to the notion that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, I think it is safe to conclude that these two are unlikely to kiss and make up. The rift between them is too deep.

It potentially has far-reaching implications for the relationship between the DA and the UDM on a wider national context.

Yet, it appears from their parties that both men are here to stay. The DA has laid the blame for this volatility solely at Bobani’s feet.

It believes he is unscrupulous and cannot be trusted. Therefore it is unlikely even to consider getting Trollip to step down, let alone because of his deputy.

Equally, UDM president Bantu Holomisa believes Trollip is a bully who inherently suffers from a superiority complex. Thus it has become increasingly clear that Holomisa will not cave in to pressure to recall Bobani from his position.

And so here we are with a stalemate on our hands, which so far has affected the decision- making process of key government functions in this city.

It is little wonder therefore that Trollip began courting possible partners in the hope of bolstering his support within the coalition.

He found a favourable ear in the Patriotic Alliance (PA).

The party has one seat to offer.

It is occupied by councillor Marlon Daniels who, until recently, was a staunch critic of the DA. (Remember what I said about no permanent enemies in this game?)

This week it emerged that the PA is willing to jump into the coalition partnership in exchange for two things. It wants a seat in the mayoral committee and the deputy mayor position.

This would effectively mean Daniels becomes the deputy mayor also responsible for safety and security, which is the portfolio the party has expressed interest in.

It would also mean a R1.1-million annual salary for Daniels – about double his current pay. Assuming he has no objections, both demands from the PA may be tricky waters for Trollip to navigate.

Let’s consider the first one. With its constituency mainly in the city’s northern areas, the PA’s manifesto centres around fighting crime, in particular gang violence.

Therefore the party views the security portfolio as the most relevant to its electoral mandate. Only this position is already filled by local security expert John Best.

Granted, Trollip could reshuffle his mayoral committee. This is his prerogative.

However, in removing Best from a portfolio he is most suited for, Trollip would need to sell Daniels to the public as equally competent or potentially even better suited for this job than the incumbent.

Otherwise tinkering with the security portfolio in a crime-ridden city such as ours could be seen as an irresponsible political game in the face of lawlessness.

The PA’s second demand is even more complex. The deputy mayor position too is occupied. And unlike the mayoral committee positions, Trollip’s prerogative does not extend to this one.

Unless Bobani is found to have contravened laws, there are only two ways to remove him as deputy mayor. It is either the UDM compels him to resign or the council which elected him as deputy mayor votes him out.

We have already established that it is unlikely that the UDM will remove Bobani.

This leaves the council option. Only the maths is tricky. Without the UDM, the DA and its two other coalition partners plus the PA make up 60 seats.

This equals 50% of the vote. To pass a motion of no confidence against Bobani the DA would need one more vote from the remaining parties – the ANC, EFF, UF and AIC.

Whatever their reasons, so far these parties appear actively to back the deputy mayor or have shown no interest in voting him out. In the event of a tie, the matter could be decided based on the council rule book.

In this regard, speaker Jonathan Lawack (DA) believes he can cast the tie-breaker vote which would decide the final outcome. Regardless, this is politics and anything can happen.

This is perhaps the most exhausting part of this entire saga. It is messy and unpredictable.

Most importantly, it unfolds against the backdrop of an ailing economy and a metro already battered by years of political instability.

The landscape of our city, in particular where the majority of its citizens live, paints a picture of years of untold suffering and a slew of broken promises.

This is evident in simple things that should work but do not – endless water leaks, dangerous electricity connections and basic conditions in which no one should live.

It is these issues that should take centre stage. As I write this, I cannot help but fear that ahead of us potentially lie four more years of mindless political strife.

I hope I am proven wrong. We certainly cannot afford such. Indeed sanity must prevail.