New urgency for coalition pacts: The Herald

THE first meeting of council in Nelson Mandela Bay has been called – adding renewed urgency to coalition talks following last week’s dramatic municipal elections.

Not all parties were aware yesterday of acting city boss Johann Mettler’s notice setting down the meeting for Monday, but an agenda is expected out today.

Mettler assumed charge of municipal affairs at midnight on the eve of the local government polls.

Voters delivered a major upset when they gave the former opposition DA the biggest slice of the vote, handing it an effective 57 seats in council, more than the ANC’s 50 but still not enough for either to enjoy an outright majority.

The DA is odds-on favourite to clinch a coalition deal with minority partners as it only needs to reach 61 seats in the 120-seat council to pass resolutions.

However, the ANC is in with a shout, but entirely dependent on the EFF, which holds six seats.

The ANC and DA are both confident that discussions with smaller parties will be completed and that they will be in a position to elect a speaker, executive mayor, deputy executive mayor and whip of council.

If not, it is likely the meeting will be postponed.

“The council meeting must take place by August 20, but that is a Saturday,” Mettler said yesterday.

“If, at the meeting, any reason is given why it cannot continue, then it will be . . . held a day or two later.

“It is my responsibility to call the meeting and the agenda is going out [today]. There [is] also a formal advert in the newspaper [today].”

It remains to be seen if former mayor Danny Jordaan will attend.

He has rebuffed all interview requests, according to his spokeswoman Marcelle Gordon, and declined to speak to The Herald yesterday.

Presumptive mayor Athol Trollip said he was ready.

“He [Mettler] is doing his job by calling the meeting and if a quorum is not reached we can adjourn it,” he said.

“If we aren’t prepared, it can be cancelled. However, I believe we will be ready.” ANC regional task team coordinator Bheza Ntshona was unaware of Mettler’s notice but vowed they would be prepared.

“We have been doing the necessary work since last week, but nothing has been finalised,” he said.

“We hope to have things finalised by Friday so that we will be prepared for the meeting. “Everyone we are speaking to has national structures so we are engaging at national level, but we are doing our level best to be ready in time.” Talks excluded the DA, he said. The UDM, being touted as a DA coalition partner, was also unaware of the council meeting.

UDM regional chairman Mongameli Bobani said: “We have not yet received the agenda.”

UDM president Bantu Holomisa said while the ANC and the DA had approached his party, no decisions about coalitions had been made.

United Front Eastern Cape secretary Mkhuseli Mtsila said they had also been approached by the ANC and DA.

“Our approach has been to first come up with a programme based on our policy manifesto and the interests of our constituents,” he said. “In there, we will highlight four key issues. “For us, it is not about positions but rather negotiating based on our interests.”

Patriotic Alliance provincial leader Marlon Daniels would not disclose whether the ANC or DA had approached his party.

“Talks are at a sensitive stage nationally, but I can confirm we are talking,” he said.

On Monday, Mettler sent out his notice to staff informing them of the meeting to elect the structures of council.

He states in the notice that there is currently no speaker, mayor, deputy mayor and council whip and that all elected councillors are “part-time and without portfolio”.

“The only lawful instructions to staff can only come from the office of the city manager, the executive directors and all administrative functionaries duly delegated in terms of our system of delegations,” the notice says.

“Please perform your duties and execute your functions in terms of your normal administrative responsibilities.

“Should any person other than your line function manager issue an instruction to you, please report such to your line manager who will advise you what to do.”

His missive could be interpreted as taking aim at Trollip, who went to city hall last week and said he had demanded various reports for controversial projects.

Asked whether anyone had approached staff, Mettler said he was merely giving a “direction to staff during this period of transition”. — Lee-Anne Butler