Parties challenged in fiery election debate

TEMPERS flared at the Feather Market Centre last night when political parties went head to head in a bid to convince the public to vote for them in this month’s election.

Hundreds of  supporters – clad in party colours and equipped with flags and posters – turned up  to participate in The Herald/NMMU Community Dialogue.

Nine of the  10 political party representatives were challenged on several key issues affecting Nelson Mandela Bay, namely housing, financial management, health facilities, and municipal services such as tourism, recreational areas, parks and beaches, as well as job creation.

The  parties represented at the dialogue were the ACDP, ANC, Azapo, Christian Democratic Party, COPE, DA, FF Plus, PAC and UDM.

Their representatives on the panel included Marlon Booysen, Zanoxolo Wayile, Lungile Dick, Jason Gariel, Smuts Ngonyama, Leon de Villiers, Pieter Mey, Pula Lonake and Mongameli Bobani.

The debate was chaired by NMMU arts and humanities dean  Prof Velile Notshulwana and The Herald editor Heather Robertson.

Organisers had a difficult time trying to contain the passionate crowd of supporters, a sign of the mounting pressure among political parties in the fierce contest for control of the metro. 

Read a blow-by-blow of the proceedings here

The parties promised  residents everything from bigger houses to good governance and a cash-crisis- free municipality, should they take over the running of the metro after the vote on May 18.

The excited crowd sang and chanted party songs both outside and inside the venue.  There was fierce competition in particular between COPE, the UDM,  DA and ANC, whose supporters rarely gave  their parties’ opponents the chance to discuss their plans.

UDM mayoral candidate  Bobani said: “The metro has lost R3.7-billion between 2008 and 2010. Where is the money?  How can you ask people to vote for you when you can’t account for the money lost? 
“Why must one man get the tender to supply geysers to the whole metro?”

His comments were met with jubilation from all the parties’  supporters except the ANC, who booed loudly.
  COPE mayoral candidate Ngonyama said: “We have a brand new job creation idea, to establish a metropolitan investment company with the government as the employer.”

Azapo mayoral candidate Dick said it was not a privilege to get a house and basic services, it was a right.  “This is not a parade here where you are given a T- shirt and soup to parade around for the party. We need to provide services to the people.”

Several residents questioned mayor Wayile about the decision not to make the elusive Kabuso forensic report a public document.

Ngonyama said: “Mayor, the Ka- buso document belongs to all the residents of this metro. It  … should be made available to the people.”

The 92000-unit backlog of housing delivery in the city was heavily criticised by the public and opposition parties. Wayile responded: “There is no crisis in the housing sector with regards to land now.  Last year, we received level 2 accreditation, which will help us deal with the housing needs better. If the  need arises, we’ll expropriate land from Summerstrand to build houses.

“With regard to the buses [left standing], we are dealing with other issues, such as the IPTS system that works hand in hand with the buses.

“If you want to see racism coming back, vote for the DA  …  the ANC is here to defeat the political monster of racism.”

DA mayoral candidate  De Villiers said: “When we are in power, we will appoint a competent municipal manager and no tariff increases will be higher than 8%.  We will re-prioritise the budget to stimulate economic development and job creation. We will deliver to all the people – we do not have the ANC mentality.”

PAC representative  Lonake said: “We will do away with the comrades who know nothing and are put into jobs.”
 The  public were also given an opportunity to ask questions and they rapped the politicians over the knuckles for  “false promises”.

ACDP member Miriam Strydom  said: “In the northern areas,  we have numerous vacant buildings that are vandalised.  We …  apply for buildings to use, but we don’t get our hands on them.  Why can’t NGOs be given buildings on a long lease?”

Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana, from the Human Sciences Research Council,  questioned whether the current youth development programme was effective. “You can’t consolidate what doesn’t work. When we talk empowerment, do we talk about the Zuma family empowerment scheme?”

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