At the 11th-hour, Nelson Mandela Bay council speaker Buyelwa Mafaya has cancelled a motion of no confidence in mayor Mongameli Bobani.
News24 understands that councillors received word of the cancellation early on Thursday morning – just hours before it was scheduled to be debated.
Mafaya told News24 she could not speak to the media because she was trying to quell fires sparked by her decision.
NMB spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki confirmed the early morning communication, which states that there were security risks linked to the combined special and ordinary meeting.
Mniki said the cancellation was due to the directive of the speaker, which was per the advice received from the police of the high risk associated with this meeting.
“The Speaker profusely apologises for any inconvenience this cancellation would cause,” said Mniki.
A statement from Mafaya’s office said she had to “make the difficult decision to postpone” the special and ordinary meetings “due to imminent threats against councillors”.
“We did so in the interest of protecting the democratic processes of council and to execute our duty to ensure the safety of office bearers. Although we received threats in the past, the sheer intensity and viciousness of those received the last 24 hours necessitated us to make this decision in consultation with SAPS,” read the statement.
Mafaya’s office said a date for the meetings would be announced “when all the necessary security measures are in place to deal with the current threat”.
A DA councillor told News24 that Mafaya claimed intelligence she had received from the police led to her decision. However, soon after the speaker’s office confirmed the postponement Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga denied “any statement indicating that the meeting must be called off on the advice of the SAPS”.
“As a standard operating procedure, the SAPS monitors all possible volatile events. In this case, planning was done and we are in a state of readiness as the SAPS is mandated to maintain law and order. It is the prerogative of any organiser to call off any such event that they deem to be volatile. The SAPS’s presence is in an observatory capacity and to maintain law and order. We did not recommend or advise any organiser to cancel or postpone any such meeting as it is their prerogative. We are still in a state of readiness,” added Ntshinga.
On Thursday, The Herald reported that United Front councillors who supported Bobani promised that blood would be spilt if the motion was passed.
The DA councillor, who did not want to be named because they were barred from speaking to the media, said the party’s caucus, which holds the majority in council with 57 seats, was furious.
The DA was hoping to install Athol Trollip as mayor today.
Trollip was unseated as mayor through a motion of no confidence in August 2018.
An ANC councillor claimed Mafaya – who is also a member of the ANC – was stalling the process. It’s understood that Mafaya will meet with the regional task team to explain her decision.
Bobani has faced pressure from all of his coalition partners, including the so-called black caucus -the ANC, EFF, PA and AIC – as well as the opposing DA. He has made a number of unpopular decisions to axe senior executives in the metro, with his critics claiming he did so unilaterally.
A petition of 117 black caucus members led to the decision to have him removed.
The ANC and DA were in secret meetings all week devising plans to remove Bobani.
The EFF, which was a signatory to the petition, backed out of the motion on Wednesday, refusing to work with the Patriotic Alliance (PA) and the DA.
The party’s provincial leader said the EFF would not participate as there was a strong possibility of Trollip returning as the metro’s mayor.
The NMB council has been the scenes of violence in the past.
Senior ANC councillor Andile Lungisa is currently appealing his conviction on aggravated assault after he was caught on camera hitting a DA member over the head with a glass jar. Several motions of no confidence have led to a warring of words and chairs thrown during council.
Bobani has previously survived two motions of no confidence.