ANA FILE -- DA councillor Victor Manyati. FILE PHOTO: Raahil Sain/ANA

PORT ELIZABETH - The Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday, ruled that by-elections be held within 90 days to fill vacancies in Wards 35 and 37 in the city's northern areas. 

Victor Manyati who abstained from a council vote and was instrumental in the ousting of former mayor Athol Trollip, will remain a councillor for the Democratic Alliance (DA), after the court stated that it was not necessary to make a declaratory order with regard to Manyati's membership. 

Ward 35 and 37 were held by former DA councillors, Trevor Louw and Neville Higgins, who both turned against the party after Trollip's coalition government was ousted. 

Last month, an urgent application was launched by the DA stating that three council seats had been held open unlawfully and that in doing so, a succession of municipal managers have undermined the democratic process.

The DA took Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to court, along with Manyati, Louw and Higgins to ask the court to remove them from the party. 

The three councillors had filed counter applications asking the court to rule on both their party memberships and status as councillors. 

They had argued that their membership had not been terminated which was dismissed by the court. In addition, Manyati claimed that the DA was violating an earlier court ruling in August, that he was still a member of the DA. 

In August, Judge Johann Huisamen, pointed to "flaws in the political decision making of the DA" which ultimately led to their defeat. 

At the time Huisamen stated that in terms of the DA's own constitution the party guaranteed the rights of its members to principles of a fair process, and found that the party was in breach of its own constitution. 

Huisamen said that the DA subsequently seemed to have realised that their impromptu termination of Manyati’s membership during the lunch adjournment at the council meeting was premature. The court found that the DA's purported termination of Manyati's membership was "unlawful". 

Judge Elna Revelas found in her judgment that the terminated membership of Higgins and Louw had been valid. 

DA leader Nqaba Bhanga said the party was happy with the judgment because there was no way a councillor could sit in a seat of a political party while disciplinary processes were being followed.

"It vindicates not only the DA but many political parties where people decide to cross the floor and still want to remain in the seats that they have. The court has affirmed that it cannot happen like that and parties must do proper disciplinary processes and remove councillors," said Bhanga. 

Bhanga said it was however "bizarre" that the court dismissed the DA's case against Manyati. 

"It's very bizarre how the court had taken that decision but because we are law abiding and we respect our courts we have taken a decision that we are going to start the disciplinary processes against Manyati. You would see in the processes against Mr Higgins and Mr Louw it took less than two weeks to finalise the process. We are going to engage Mr Manyati who is a PR councillor and can be replaced quickly," he said. 

Bhanga said he was confident that the DA would win the by-elections in the city's Northern Area's. 

African News Agency (ANA)