The DA will take the “unlawful” removal of NMB mayor Athol Trollip on legal review, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement released at a press conference in Cape Town today.
Maimane was joined at the press conference by Trollip and DA national spokesperson, Solly Malatsi.
“Yesterday, the people of Nelson Mandela Bay witnessed the newly formed coalition of corruption between the ANC, UDM and EFF banding together to undermine the will of the electorate by unlawfully removing its duly elected DA-led coalition government,” Maimane said. “This was a mock council meeting that elected a mock government, and we are of the view that yesterday’s proceedings are invalid in law.
“The motivation for this unscrupulous move is clear: for the ANC, UDM and the EFF to gain unfettered access to public funds in order to fill their own pockets and their party coffers ahead of the 2019 national elections. This criminal behavior is well documented in Crispian Olver’s book, How to Steal a City. It is an attempt to steal the city back,” Maimane continued.
“The scapegoat, too, is clear: the colour of Athol Trollip’s skin. This despite the incredible work the DA-led coalition government has done over the past 24 months to better the lives of the people of NMB by speeding up the delivery of basic services.”
He said the DA denounced the actions of the opposition as “a political coup by this coalition of corruption hellbent on re-establishing patronage networks that enrich the few at the expense of the many.”
He reserved special condemnation for the UDM – which forms part of the official coalition agreement that governs NMB – for disregarding their agreement and voting with the ANC and the EFF.
After the opposition coalition ousted council speaker Jonathan Lawack on Monday and then convened a meeting without the presence of the DA and its other coalition partners, the opposition elected a new speaker, voted to remove Trollip and elected UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani – the former deputy mayor – as mayor.
“[The UDM] is a party with 2% of the vote, and certainly does not have a mandate from the people of NMB,” Maimane said.
“Following consultation with our legal team, we have resolved to take council’s decision to remove Athol Trollip as executive mayor on legal review as we are of the opinion that the sitting was procedurally invalid and lacked legitimate authority to legally elect a new speaker, and then subsequently pass the motion of no confidence in the executive mayor.”
Maimane cited Section 36(3) of the Municipal Structures Act (117 of 1998), which states: “The municipal manager of the municipality or, if the municipal manager is not available, a person designated by the MEC for local government in the province, presides over the election of a speaker” (emphasis added).
Following the removal of Lawack, municipal manager Johann Mettler had adjourned the council sitting for the reason that quorum had been broken.
“Subsequent to that, the Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Fikile Xasa, erroneously invoked Section 36(3) and designated an individual to preside over the election of ANC councillor Buyelwa Mafaya as speaker; and the motion of no confidence in executive mayor Athol Trollip,” Maimane said.
“Despite the fact that the Municipal Manager was both present and not incapacitate to preside over the sitting, he was denied his role by MEC Xasa and the person designated by him. This is in contravention of the clear requirements of the Municipal Structures Act and therefore renders the election of Buyelwa Mafaya as speaker, and the subsequent motion of no confidence in Athol Trollip as invalid in law.”
The battle in NMB is between those who want to steal public money to make themselves rich, and those who are committed to ensuring public money is directed to creating work, building houses and roads, and delivering a clean, delivery-oriented government that serves all the people
Maimane said the opposition coalition had turned a DA councillor, Victor Manyathi, against his own party.
“They preyed on his legal and financial vulnerability to lure him into treachery. We have in any case served him notice of intention to cessate his DA membership,” Maimane said.
“The battle in NMB is between those who want to steal public money to make themselves rich, and those who are committed to ensuring public money is directed to creating work, building houses and roads, and delivering a clean, delivery-oriented government that serves all the people. Former President Jacob Zuma publicly admitted this when addressing the ANC’s Amathole regional conference in the Eastern Cape in 2017, stating that: ‘Of all the metros, I won’t talk about the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, because you know all about it. We ruined it for years, bit by bit. Now the opposition is in charge. We cannot say we are surprised by that.’”
He also alluded to the ANC in the NMB sub-region being cash-strapped.
“The EFF, UDM and other similar small parties have actively attempted to hand Nelson Mandela Bay back to the very thieves and crooks who had previously brought the metro to its knees. They will have to answer to the voters for this,” Maimane said.