D-Day for Bobani next week
Ousted Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani will have to wait until Thursday to hear whether he will be reinstated after judgment on his urgent application was reserved in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Friday.
Uncertainty surrounding the Bay becoming the official hosts of the Irish Lions Test may not be the high water mark of Bobani’s case, but his counsel battled to come up with further examples as to why his application for reinstatement was urgent.
Bobani and former acting municipal manager, Nobuntu Mpongwana, had asked the court to set aside council’s move to vote them out of office on Thursday last week, claiming the decision to do so was unlawful.
And while they were concerned that any decisions made by Mpongwana now fell by the wayside — including the deal with SA Rugby for the 2021 rugby tour — the court battled to understand why Mpongwana was challenging her dismissal if she, herself, had opted to resign.
Bobani and Mpongwana sat side by side at the front of the court as lengthy arguments were heard.
The DA, new acting municipal manager Noxolo Nqwazi and the NMB municipality opposed the bid for reinstatement, with their lawyers asking for the matter to be dismissed with costs.
Much of Friday’s argument circled around Mpongwana’s dismissal — or resignation — whichever was to be accepted.
She had written to Bobani at about 2.30pm on December 5, informing him of her intention to step down.
Meanwhile, back at the council chambers, she had also been voted out.
Advocate Ben Ford SC, representing the municipality, said Mpongwana had opted to step down from her acting role before being voted out and that he now battled to understand why the fact that council had wanted her out — or did not give her sufficient notice of her impending removal — was an issue.
Her argument, that she would be prejudiced because she was no longer receiving her acting salary, was therefore also questionable, he said.
“What did she think was going to happen when she resigned?
“That she was still going to receive her salary?” Ford asked.
Advocate Marinda Veldsman, representing Bobani and Mpongwana, insisted her resignation had been under duress because of ill-treatment she received from councillors in chambers that day.
Ford argued further that while all decisions made by Mpongwana during her tenure as acting city boss would automatically be reviewed, this in no way meant the Lions tour was definitely off the cards.
Bobani had submitted in court papers that the decision to boot him out of office was invalid and in contravention of Section 58 of the Municipal Structures Act, which requires he be given 10 days’ notice of any intention to vote him out.
Bobani said this was not done and his removal was therefore illegal.
However, representatives for the DA and municipality have rubbished this, pointing out that Bobani was aware of the motion from as far back as August, when it was first brought to the fore.
Due to several disruptions, it was ultimately dealt with on Thursday last week.
Ford asked what irreparable harm Bobani would suffer if the matter was not dealt with urgently.
He remained a UDM councillor and continued to earn a salary.
There was no evidence before court that he would suffer financially.
Advocate Graham Richards, representing the DA and councillors Morne Steyn and Athol Trollip, cited as respondents, said the councillors who voted Bobani out by an overwhelming majority had acted on behalf of and represented the best interests of the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay.
Judgment was reserved.
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