Athol Trollip. Picture: AFP PHOTO/MICHAEL SHEEHAN
Athol Trollip. Picture: AFP PHOTO/MICHAEL SHEEHAN

The DA has lost control of another municipality after Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip lost a vote of no confidence on Monday.

It makes Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes Port Elizabeth, the second of the hung metros and municipalities the party has lost since the 2016 local elections.

Trollip’s downfall was caused by DA councillor Mbulelo Manyati defying the party line.

In 2017, the DA, which made huge gains in the 2016 elections on promises of clean governance and better service delivery, lost control over the small municipality of Mogale City on the West Rand of Gauteng after one of its councillors voted to oust former mayor Michael Holenstein.

The DA also faces a real risk on Thursday of losing another metro if a motion of no confidence against Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga succeeds.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Trollip had worked tirelessly to deliver services to the people of Nelson Mandela Bay. “Today is the start of the reversal. We shall continue to fight for the people,” Maimane said on Twitter on Monday night.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, 61 councillors voted against Trollip and elected Mongameli Bobani of the United Democratic Movement to replace him.

Bobani, a former deputy mayor under Trollip, said the first thing on his agenda would be to focus on growing small businesses and to ensure residents received service delivery.

“We will show the DA how it’s done. This is a collective government. There is not going to be a mayor who does whatever he wants,” he said.

The DA was, however, planning to legally challenge the meeting, saying it had not been duly constituted.

The move by opposition parties followed a dramatic council meeting, which first saw speaker Jonathan Lawack removed by the opposition with the help of Manyati, who turned on his party and abstained from voting.

Manyati’s membership was terminated less than two hours later by the DA, which relied on the clause adopted by its congress earlier in 2018, which allows it to fire any member who publicly states they plan to resign from the party.

Manyati told journalists he planned to resign from the party as he felt black councillors were ill-treated by the DA.

The DA’s chairman of the federal council, James Selfe, sent a letter to city manager Johann Mettler, saying Manyati was no longer a member of the party and thus a vacancy should be declared in the council.

After receiving legal advice, Mettler then declared the vacancy and said Manyati was no longer a councillor.

This prompted the DA and its coalition partners Cope and the ACDP to stage a walkout of the meeting, hoping to effectively collapse the sitting and leave it without a quorum.

But the opposition councillors – from the ANC, EFF, UDM, African Independent Congress and United Front — were adamant that Mettler was wrong as it was ultimately up to the Electoral Commission of SA to declare the vacancy, especially as Manyati planned to fight his dismissal and his lawyer had sent a letter in that regard. Mettler declared the meeting unable to proceed with only 60 councillors out of a council of 120 as he believed Manyati was no longer a councillor.

After leaving the meeting, Mettler later told the opposition councillors he had received further legal advice and that he had erred in declaring the vacancy so soon. He said the council meeting would continue on Monday.

But the opposition parties refused to wait, roping in Eastern Cape MEC of co-operative governance and traditional affairs Fikile Xasa to intervene. Xasa, who had not spoken to Mettler about what transpired, told Business Day he had “heard the city manager walked out” and that he would send a senior official, Jenny Roestorf, from his office to preside over the election of a speaker.

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