A special meeting of the Nelson Mandela Bay council could not proceed on Thursday as not enough councillors were present to form a quorum.
African National Congress councillors refused to enter the venue, while Economic Freedom Fighters members had already given notice of their intention not to attend.
Most notable, however, was the deliberate absence of deputy mayor and regional United Democratic Movement (UDM) chairperson Mongameli Bobani, and fellow UDM councillor Thoko Tshangela.
The UDM is part of the DA-led coalition government formed after the August 3 local government elections. While mayor Athol Trollip was quick to allay speculation that the coalition was in trouble, it was clear the two parties were at loggerheads.
The coalition includes the African Christian Democratic Party and Congress of the People, who each brought one seat in council to the coalition.
Collapse of coalition ‘wishful thinking’
Trollip said it was unfortunate that the meeting could not convene. It was an important meeting at which the city’s annual report and mid-year report would have been tabled.
“I think that is wishful thinking, this coalition has not collapsed. There is obviously a difference of opinion with some of our coalition partners, but we will deal with that.
“This is coalition government, it’s not easy. We are not an outright majority government so we will go and negotiate with our coalition partners to find common ground,” he said.
Municipal manager must go
Bobani told reporters the UDM was unhappy with two items on the agenda. These were the extension of Vuyo Zitumane’s post as acting executive director of corporate services, and the firing of executive director of corporate services Mod Ndoyana. City manager Johann Mettler sacked him in December 2016.
Bobani said the UDM was against Mettler’s appointment as city manager, despite having voted in favour of his appointment last year. Mettler was acting city manager under previous mayor Danny Jordaan. He got the job after the city backtracked on the appointment of Vuyo Mlokothi in November.
The matter had been escalated to provincial level. Eastern Cape co-operative governance MEC Fikile Xasa insisted that the post be re-advertised, saying the municipality did not follow recruitment law in appointing Mettler.
Mlokothi is currently employed in Xasa’s office. He intended taking the municipality to court for rescinding the decision to appoint him.
Bobani said the UDM agreed with the MEC about Mettler’s appointment.
“I won’t say this is the first cracks of the coalition. It is a difference of opinion. The coalition is still there and I am still the deputy mayor. We are not going to lose our identity as the UDM.”
They would not remain silent when they felt something was wrong, merely because they were members of a coalition, he said.