A beaming Mongameli Bobani was videoed swiveling in the Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral chair yesterday as the DA geared up to ask the courts to reverse a controversial council decision to oust Athol Trollip.
Bobani’s victory whirl in the shiny black leather executive seat took place as he held his first mayoral caucus meeting in Trollip’s freshly vacated office.
“This is a very nice chair,” Bobani chortled at about 3pm after the office was cleared of all traces of Trollip.
But while Bobani celebrated, there was confusion over who was, in fact, mayor as both Trollip and he himself were each adamant they were the mayor of the Bay.
Port Elizabeth City Hall was a hive of activity as the ANC and UDM celebrated with their supporters while the DA and its coalition partners – ACDP, COPE and Patriotic Alliance – turned up for work, saying it was business as usual.
It followed a dramatic council meeting on Monday where council speaker Jonathan Lawack was first relieved of his duties when DA councillor Mbulelo Manyati abstained from voting against the no-confidence motion.
Later, the opposition rammed through the removal of Trollip and chief whip Werner Senekal in their absence at the session first presided over by an official from the provincial department of co-operative governance.
The DA believes the sitting was illegal and is thus preparing a legal challenge.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said they were of the opinion that the council sitting was procedurally invalid and lacked legitimate authority to legally elect a new speaker, and then subsequently pass the motion of no confidence in Trollip.
They believe that the co-operative governance & traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa erred by sending an official to preside over the election of the speaker while city boss Johann Mettler was available.
The Municipal Structures Act 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”.
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.”
During a telephonic interview with Xasa on Tuesday, he said he was ready to fight any technicalities that the DA planned to challenge about his seconded official.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon, attorney Lunen Meyer, who is representing the DA, said: “I have consulted with my client and counsel and we are contemplating the way forward.”
Earlier in the day, as Bobani and his team sat inside the council chamber, waiting for their meeting with Mettler, DA councillor Rano Kayser – who was last week appointed political head of economic development, tourism and agriculture – turned up at the same venue for his scheduled committee meeting.
ANC councillor Buyelwa Mafaya, who was elected the new speaker by the ANC, EFF, UDM, AIC, United Front and Manyati on Monday night, said she took the decision to postpone the meeting, but Kayser was not having any of it and was adamant that his meeting would proceed.
He asked Bobani and his team to leave the chamber, which they subsequently did.
Municipal officials appeared to be confused about whose instructions to follow, unsure of whether or not Kayser’s meeting was legal or if Mafaya’s instruction was the lawful one.