The ongoing conflict between the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) over former deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani spilled over into a Nelson Mandela Bay council meeting on Thursday when the coalition failed to get the numbers required to convene the meeting.
Matters became more complicated as the Patriotic Alliance (PA), which had brought the motion of no confidence against Bobani to have him ousted, demanded that their candidate, Marlon Daniels, be elected as the new deputy mayor. However, the matter was not placed on the meeting's agenda.
This resulted in PA leader Gayton McKenzie notifying Mayor Athol Trollip, in writing, that his party was withdrawing from the coalition with immediate effect.
Read more here: Patriotic Alliance withdraws from Nelson Mandela Bay coalition
On Thursday afternoon the DA in the Eastern Cape noted the withdrawal of the PA from the coalition government via Twitter.
"While this is regrettable, it has no impact on the govt's work in delivering better services, growing the economy and stopping corruption (sic).
"Our objective is to save South Africa through building an alternative to previously poor and corrupt governance."
Hung council was anticipated
Earlier on Thursday, when council was scheduled to convene at 10:00, only members from the DA, the African Christian Democratic Party and the Congress of the People (Cope) were present in council, giving the coalition 59 seats, two short of the required 61. The meeting adjourned for 10 minutes.
Bobani's seat next to Trollip, in front of council, had also been moved to the back row, while Cope councillor and member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for arts recreation and culture Siyasanga Sijadu sat next to Trollip.
Daniels, who was recently appointed by Trollip as the new MMC for public health, entered the council room during the brief adjournment, but, instead of joining the other mayoral committee members, he chose to sit in the back benches.
However, even with Daniels' presence, the coalition was only able to muster 60 seats, resulting in the speaker of the house, councillor Jonathan Lawack, postponing the meeting.
Trollip said the ANC had sent SMSes to its councillors, instructing them not to attend the council meeting.
"We anticipated that there would be a no-show by the ANC and the UDM, we anticipated we would not have a quorum," he said.
"If they stay away indefinitely, they will have to be held accountable," he said.
'Breach of obligations'
Trollip said council rules stipulated that anyone who missed three council meetings in a row could be dismissed, but also pointed out a Constitutional Court ruling that said boycotting council was gravely irresponsible.
The ruling states that councillors are elected to undertake the work of the council on behalf of the entire citizenry.
"Sometimes the tides of politics will place one party in the majority and sometimes another. But it remains the duty of all councillors to facilitate and not obstruct the workings of the council," he said.
"For councillors to continue to draw their salaries, while refusing to attend meetings and seeking thereby to stultify the working of a council would be a breach of their obligations as councillors.
"Ideally we would want 65 members in the coalition," he said in a veiled reference to the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Trollip said the UDM was still part of the coalition, as there had been no formal withdrawal by the UDM from the national co-governance agreement.
"Our problem is not with the UDM, it is with the behaviour of one of their councillors. We have said all along the position of deputy mayor we will give to the UDM if they replace Bobani, because they are the second-largest party of this coalition.
"As far as I'm concerned, at a national level they are still part of the coalition, but at a local level, they are taking us to court, which does make it difficult," he said.
Boycott 'not indefinite'
In a separate joint press conference by the black caucus, a term used to refer to the opposition parties in the metro, the ANC's Nelson Mandela Bay caucus leader, Bicks Ndoni, said the boycott had nothing to do with the issues between the UDM or the PA.
Ndoni, who had been at the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday for Bobani's application to be reinstated, told News24 at the time that the party did not intend to boycott the council meeting, after rumours circulated that the opposition were planning to stay away.
Ndoni and fellow black caucus councillors said the boycott stemmed from concerns that council resolutions were not being implemented and that matters were being steamrolled in council to the detriment of residents.
Ndoni said the boycott was not indefinite, and the opposition members had agreed that they would attend the next council meeting.
Asked if the ANC would have put forward a candidate for deputy mayor, Ndoni said they did not have the numbers and as such the matter had not been discussed.
Asked if he would have supported a vote for Daniels as deputy mayor, Ndoni said he highly doubted that Daniels name would be put forward.