Trollip admits that internal fights likely cost DA outright victory in Nelson Mandela Bay
Ousted mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay‚ Athol Trollip‚ has suggested for the first time that the DA could have received an outright majority in the highly-contested coastal municipality if not for internal divisions.
The factions were allegedly led by then provincial chairperson Veliswa Mvenya.
Trollip‚ who lost his mayoral chain to the United Democratic Movement's (UDM's) Mongameli Bobani last month‚ claimed that Mvenya and some DA leaders in the Bay may have sabotaged the party when their preferred councillor candidate didn't emerge high up on the party's candidate list.
He was speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on Monday‚ where he reflected on the build-up to the 2016 local government elections. He also addressed his tumultuous stay in office and life after his removal.
Trollip‚ who is now an ordinary councillor after two years as mayor‚ may be down but he insists that he is not out. He considers himself “underemployed” and argues that he is a coelacanth.
“I have been around for a long time in politics [but] I am not a political dinosaur; I regard myself as a coelacanth‚” he said about his career and its ups and downs.
“Some people thought it was a dinosaur that didn’t exist any more‚ but it is still very much alive. It’s an interesting fish that has been around for a long‚ long time. I regard myself as a political coelacanth‚” he said.
Sketching the build-up to the local government elections in 2016‚ Trollip spoke about how Mvenya “ganged up” with former DA MP Donald Lee because their preferred candidates for councillor positions were “not high enough on the list” – saying that this cost the DA an outright majority.
“I believe that if it was not for that internal competition‚ we might have gone closer to the magical 50% + 1. We will never know. But that is my personal feeling‚” said Trollip.
“They [Mvenya and Lee] formed a coalition of the aggrieved because their members were not elected in positions. That’s the danger of politics when you have people who believe that they have members. We saw people being manipulated and that was a very difficult time for us. This happens out of self-interest‚ self importance‚ it also happens because the ANC induces people to do that.”
Trollip spoke about how ahead of every election DA members tended to defect to the ANC‚ adding that the three DA councillors who voted with the opposition to change the Nelson Mandela Bay government were evidence of this.
“All the people who defect from the DA and say these terrible things about a party they served for many years‚ you will encounter them six months later walking down the street‚ next to their shoes. They get nothing from the party that induces them to go over.
“We are going through that now. And why does it happen? Because we are the greatest threat to the ANC‚” he said.
Mvenya‚ who left the DA earlier this year‚ hit back and put the blame at Trollip's door.
She claimed that her differences with Trollip originated from the party's 2014 provincial congress at which she was elected as provincial chairperson. She claimed that Trollip didn't back her for the position‚ and when his choice Edmund van Vuuren lost‚ Trollip and Van Vuuren vowed to punish the DA councillors who voted for Mvenya.
“They said those people will be punished and will not be councillors again. Indeed those people were excluded when the lists were announced‚” she said.
Mvenya revealed that she questioned this “coincidence” at a provincial executive committee meeting and warned Trollip that he was starting factions in the DA. She also claimed to warn that this would cost the party‚ as these people had won wards from the ANC in May 2011 and were being removed in 2016. She later reported the matter to party leader Mmusi Maimane‚ she said.
“As far as I know‚ my sin is that I reported him to Mmusi after I fought for a principle.”
Mvenya claimed that Lee and Trollip were “enemies” because Lee did not support Trollip when he stood to be the party's parliamentary leader‚ first against Helen Zille and later against Lindiwe Mazibuko.
Turning to the Bobani matter‚ Trollip suggested the man - who served as his deputy for months before the two fell out - was corrupt‚ took dirty money and insisted that illegal payments be made to companies who had not done any work for the municipality.
“It became clear around December 20 when Bobani said I should pay 10% commission to disbursing money in the controversial integrated public transport system contract. He insisted that we pay this R1.8-million‚ but I refused.
“Since that day‚ Bobani started voting against us in council‚ and sided with people that were being disciplined and representing people that were being suspended.”
Trollip said that despite several meetings and many letters to UDM leader Bantu Holomisa about Bobani's behaviour‚ the UDM leader “didn't want to hear it".
He claimed that both Holomisa and Bobani took “bad‚ dirty money” to run the August 2015 by-election which the UDM famously won by 49% from 4%‚ beating both the ANC and the DA.
“I said to Holomisa‚ ‘I know why you won't do anything about Bobani…because you both took bad‚ dirty money in Nelson Mandela Bay for the by-elections and for the election.’ He paled visibly and‚ from that day on‚ he turned aggressive and he started using the narrative that the DA is racist‚ [that] Trollip is a baas and his ego is too big. Despite the fact that his member had broken every single provision of the co-governance agreement.”
Trollip described the co-governance agreement that the coalition partners entered into after the 2016 local government as good‚ but that people broke almost every single one of its provisions with absolutely no consequences.
“If I have learnt any lessons from coalitions‚ I think we need to be a bit more careful about how you craft coalitions and who you craft them with after elections‚ but we live and learn.”
He said negotiating coalitions requires real in-depth discussions.
“You have got to make significant concessions and if you make too many concessions. Sometimes you've got to walk away from coalitions [because] staying in coalitions can contaminate your political credibility. Those are the important lessons that we have learnt‚” he said.
Holomisa acknowledged that Trollip has made this allegation about Bobani before‚ and that he had told him to bring forward evidence.
“He never said I took money; he's always said it's Bobani who took money. He must publish the evidence including the source‚ place‚ amount and date. He can go to the hell‚” said Holomisa‚ who described Trollip as a farmer who was becoming too big for his boots.
“He must provide the evidence or he will have to explain this in court.”