After nearly a year without a mayor, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality could see a fresh election for a new mayor after the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda upheld its order that the council speaker set a council meeting within seven days.
Council speaker Buyelwa Mafaya had appealed an initial judgment, which compelled her to hold a special meeting to elect a new mayor.
This after the Democratic Alliance (DA) filed court papers on 31 July and its leader Nqaba Bhanga wrote to Mafaya to demand an urgent council meeting to elect a new mayor.
The DA were pre-empting a move by Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Xolile Nqatha to place the metro under administration.
In her ruling, High Court Judge Irma Schoeman said she was of the view that there was no reasonable prospect that another court would come to a different conclusion.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has been without a mayor since Mongameli Bobani was removed by a vote of no confidence on 5 December 2019. Bobani's removal led to his deputy, Tshonono Buyeye, being appointed acting mayor.
The new developments could be a major game changer in the metro. The DA, which lost the metro to an African National Congress-led coalition, is eager to reclaim the city.
Last week, the Patriotic Alliance's soured relationship with the ANC in Johannesburg opened the flood gates for new coalition talks with the DA. The PA was removed from the fragile ANC-led council in Johannesburg.
The ANC also missed an opportunity to solidify its relationship with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) during the Tshwane mayoral election earlier this month.
The ANC caucus disobeyed an order by ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile and the Gauteng executive to vote in an EFF mayor.
The ANC was hoping the EFF would return the favour in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the City of Johannesburg, should the need arise.
Reacting to the court ruling, DA mayoral candidate Bhanga said the DA was vindicated by the judgment, which affirmed the party's position that by law an executive mayor must be elected.
"Without an executive mayor National Treasury has withheld R1.6-billion of funding to the metro and service delivery has come to an all-time low. It was important because the speaker was not attending to her lawful duties to call a meeting to elect a mayor when there is a vacancy in the office and to prevent a continuing unlawful clinging to power," he said.
Responding to possible coalition agreements with smaller parties, Bhanga said: "The DA has always said it will do everything in its power to save this metro and will consider speaking to anybody who is of like mind."
Luyolo Nqakula, ANC regional coordinator in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, said the ANC would field its own candidate for the much-anticipated election.
The ANC had earlier chosen to support a candidate from its coalition partners in the so called "black caucus".
"We have got confidence in the courts of law. We respect the conclusion that the court has arrived at and it should be complied with," he said.
Many role players in the metro have raised concerns over instability due to the vacant mayoral position.
In a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, dated 16 June, the Nelson Mandela Bay Chamber of Business said without a mayor to table its budget, it feared the metro would lose its equitable share, which would have a devastating effect.
In June, News24 reported that Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma ordered Eastern Cape Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha to investigate the vacancy.