Dissent within the Democratic Alliance caucus in Nelson Mandela Bay could cost Athol Trollip the mayorship if a councillor refusing to toe the party line remains within the fold.
DA councillor Victor Manyathi’s refusal to vote against the motion of no confidence led to council speaker Jonathan Lawack being voted out on Monday.
The motion was brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters and succeeded with 60 votes to 59. It is expected to be followed with a similar motion against Trollip.
If Manyathi remains within the DA caucus, he could abstain from the motion of no confidence against Trollip, forcing him out of power.
Manyathi’s abstention meant that the speaker was removed with one vote, as the DA governs the municipality with a coalition majority of one vote with support from the African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People and the Patriotic Alliance.
The opposition is made up of the ANC, EFF, United Democratic Movement, African Independents Congress and United Front.
Manyathi signalled that he wouldn’t be voting with the DA before the EFF tabled the vote in council.
“It is my choice to vote in favour of any motion, whether it is with DA or not. But I have decided that I will not vote with the DA today, and my reasons for that I have discussed with the leadership of the DA,” he told journalists in the council chambers in Port Elizabeth.
“I want change in this metro,” he added.
The DA immediately took action against Manyathi, announcing to council that his membership had been suspended with immediate effect. The DA constitution allows the party to expel any of its members who disobey an instruction of how to vote in national, provincial and local councils.
This led to the vote for a new speaker being delayed by seven days and an interim speaker being deployed by Cooperative Governance MEC in the Eastern Cape, Fikile Xasa.
But Manyathi plans to fight the move to oust him from the party.
By Monday afternoon his lawyers had sent a letter to Nelson Mandela Bay municipal manager Johann Mettler who is now the interim speaker indicating his intention to appeal the suspension.