Political parties will on Tuesday vote on a motion of no confidence in Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) municipality mayor Athol Trollip.
Whatever the outcome of the vote, the motion is expected to be the final nail in the coffin of the DA's informal alliance with the EFF in Port Elizabeth.
Tensions in the DA's informal coalition with smaller parties grew last year, when the DA moved to axe United Democratic Movement (UDM) member and deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani (who faces allegations of corruption).
Then, at a national level, EFF leader Julius Malema made good his threat to "punish" the DA for voting against the party's parliamentary motion for land expropriation without compensation. A vote of no confidence in Trollip was tabled at the end of March.
This is how UDM Councillor Mongameli Bobani conducted himself at NMB's last council meeting. Perhaps tomorrow Cllr Bobani will rather put the people of this City first by focusing on Council business.... pic.twitter.com/Wk6mqfqdLU— Kris (@KristoffDJ) April 9, 2018
But the motion was left up in the air after the metro speaker moved to adjourn the special sitting indefinitely. Quoting caucus rules, NMB speaker Jonathan Lawack said: "In the event of grave disorder, the speaker may adjourn the meeting or suspend proceedings for a period."
This followed after opposition members — including the EFF and the UDM, which brought the motion to council — continuously disrupted the sitting, shouting points of order over Lawack and, on one occasion, breaking into a small scuffle.
Although the EFF holds only six of the 120 seats on the Nelson Mandela Bay council, its threat is substantial because of the balance of power.
After the 2016 local government elections, the DA acquired 57 seats to the ANC's 50. The other seats went to the EFF (6), the United Democratic Movement (2), African Christian Democratic Party (1), Congress of the People (1), African Independent Congress (1), Patriotic Alliance (1) and the United Front of the Eastern Cape (1).
Because no party held a majority, the EFF, UDM and Cope threw their weight behind the DA to steal the metro away from the ANC. The EFF and the UDM together have the numbers to tip the balance of forces between the DA and the ANC, although the DA can hang on with support from four of the single-seat parties.
The Patriotic Alliance threw a spanner in the works when they announced at the eleventh hour that they will vote with Trollip. With their support, and additional backing from the ACDP and Cope, the vote will come to a deadlock, in which case Lawack — who is a DA member — is the tiebreaker.
Analysts say the EFF's move to disrupt the initial sitting was because they had realised the vote may not go their way.
If the EFF lose the motion, they will be left red-faced. If the DA lose, it will mark the beginning of further tensions between the two parties in other metros.