Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip and his deputy, Mongameli Bobani, acted disgracefully and their actions did not engender trust in the shaky coalition government, according to an internal investigation report that was completed this week.
A three-person task team appointed this week to investigate tensions in the Nelson Mandela Bay coalition government found that the dispute between Trollip and Bobani undermined the coalition agreement and the municipality.
The panel made up of Anton Alberts of the Freedom Front Plus, the Congress of the People’s Farouk Cassim and Jo-Ann Downs of the African Christian Democratic Party was appointed this past Monday at a meeting of all the coalition partners to investigate whether the parties in dispute were in breach of the coalition agreement.
Despite all the parties affirming their commitment to the continuance of the coalition at that meeting, the mudslinging between the two politicians continued this week.
Less than 24 hours after the meeting, Bobani voted against the very coalition government he is part of in the council.
It was the third time he voted against his government’s resolutions.
“It is of great concern that after all parties had decided on a way forward both the mayor and the deputy mayor made public statements which negated the terms we had agreed upon,” said the panel in a report seen by the City Press.
It said by making public statements, Trollip directly contradicted the joint statement issued on Monday and added fuel to fire, while Bobani, who organised a public demonstration to the council meeting, also undermined the leaders’ decision.
“It also most definitely did not engender trust in the government. Both actions were disgraceful,” found the panel.
Nelson Mandela Bay is governed through a multi-party coalition government, which includes the Democratic Alliance (DA), United Democratic Movement (UDM), Congress of the People (Cope) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) after no party received a clear majority in the August 2016 elections.
In the August 2016 elections, the DA won 46.71% of the vote, the UDM 1.91%, Cope 0.73% and the ACDP 0.36%. Together the coalition parities won 49.71% of the vote.
The ANC, which is in opposition in Nelson Mandela Bay, won 40.92% of the vote.
Cracks between Trollip and Bobani began to emerge a few months later as the two differed, first, on senior appointments in the municipality and escalated this month as Trollip fired Bobani from his mayoral committee.
Speculation has been rife that Trollip also wants to remove Bobani as a deputy mayor.
The three-person task team appointed this week found that the issue of personalities and power mongering has subsumed every other consideration with substantive issues giving way to open and unceasing bickering.
“It is, however, not possible to decide who is truly at fault. The evidence indicates acts of departure from the coalition agreement by both parties, especially as the dispute escalated,” it said about the growing dispute.
The panel also found that the public differences between the two have threatened to collapse the coalition.
City Press has seen findings of the three-day investigation, including that there was a complete breakdown of trust between the two parties and the various allegations and counter allegations have given rise to opposing perceptions and positions including that: Trollip felt that his deputy was uncontrollable, acts irrationally, undermines the coalition and should be replaced.
Bobani, on the other hand, felt that Trollip is domineering and infringes upon his [Bobani’s] autonomy as a representative of a separate and independent political party and that he does not consult properly with Bobani.
“A racial dimension is also present,” concluded the panel.
Its conclusions are based on incomplete evidence presented to it over the past few days.
“This positioning has now due to various acts, accusations and counteraccusations escalated into an impossible situation. The breakdown in trust is in violation of the coalition agreement,” it found.
The panel also found that the coalition agreement was being undermined by the current state of affairs and a fundamental breach has already occurred due to the breakdown in trust between the parties.
However, it would not make a finding on who is at fault, saying this fell outside its mandate and could also not be made due to the incomplete state of the available evidence.
“It is not acceptable for a coalition partner to make public allegations against another leader in the coalition government. This whole dispute has been carried into the public, disgracing the whole Nelson Mandela Bay Metro government…” it found, adding that it was in the best interest of that government to conduct an investigation of the matter and prevent further leaks to the media.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he would call for an urgent meeting, possibly in the coming week, to interrogate the report of the panel and to take decisions.
“The status quo cannot remain,” said Maimane, hinting that Bobani might be removed.