Rochelle de Kock, Prudence Mini and Nwabisa Makunga
THOUSANDS of Cosatu, SACP and civil society groups muscled their way through the Port Elizabeth city centre yesterday in what was by far the biggest fight yet for Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Zanoxolo Wayile to keep his job.
Marching for about 10km from Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton to the City Hall, the crowd, armed with knobkerries and sticks, called for ANC regional boss Nceba Faku’s head, saying he had plunged the metro into crisis.
The march came just three days after a team of 26 ANC members are said to have pleaded with President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria not to allow Wayile to be sacked and threatening that if the president did not get rid of Faku, they would intensify their mass action.
Wayile, his deputy Nancy Sihlwayi, speaker Maria Hermans and chief whip Feziwe Sibeko had a meeting with regional and provincial ANC leaders, led by secretary Oscar Mabuyane and deputy chairman Gugile Nkwinti, at Florence Matomela House yesterday.
At the meeting, Mabuyane and Nkwinti were widely expected to tell Wayile and his executive that the party had decided to fire them but, according to one ANC member who was part of the discussions, they instead “danced around the issue and never came out with it”.
Members of Sanco, Sangoco, the Young Communist League, ANC Youth League, ANC Women’s League and several ANC branches made up the about 3000 people who carried placards calling for Faku’s executive to be disbanded.
Mabuyane, however, dismissed the marchers’ demands, saying by calling for the disbanding of the regional leadership, they were “confused, anti-ANC and anti-Cosatu”.
“People who understand these organisations would not take their grievances to the streets, they would go through proper structures to address them,” Mabuyane told The Herald.
At about 1pm, the crowd stopped in front of the ANC regional headquarters in Govan Mbeki Avenue where a wall of heavily armed police stood guard.
The masses chanted and jeered, calling for Faku to come down.
He did not.
Many carried placards, which read, “We have had enough Giraffe [Faku]” and “Faku is selling the poor”.
About 20 minutes later, the protesters proceeded to the City Hall where they waited to hand over a memorandum of demands.
When Wayile, Hermans, Sihlwayi and Sibeko eventually showed up, the crowd went mad, loudly applauding and hugging them.
Wayile told the protesters: “At the meeting with the PEC [provincial executive committee] we were told to continue with governing. No decision was taken [to reshuffle] at the meeting.
“People are saying Wayile mobilised Cosatu and Sanco, but you cannot use people against the ANC. We will never in history use the ANC against each other.
“We are not confused about how we operate the administration of this metro,” Wayile said.
Addressing the group, ANC councillor Scrummy Mtwa said if the REC and PEC wanted to mess with “brother [Wayile] and his three sisters, there’ll be a Marikana in this city”.
“Giraffe and his dogs are going to go out. In the newspapers, he [Faku] is saying we will get Wayile, but next time he will say ‘I am going down’,” Mtwa said.
Faku earlier this week told The Herald he would never back down in his quest to have Wayile and his team removed because they were “incompetent”.
Cosatu regional secretary Armstrong Poswa said: “We will carry on with mass action until we get what we want. This is a hot topic and it doesn’t need cowards.
“We don’t want thieves, we will beat them.”
Buqaqawuli Mrwetyana, district executive committee member of the Young Communist League, said: “We are saying ‘no’ to reshuffling. We know that the reshuffle was supposed to take place today and the REC wants to make space for those who want to loot this metro.”
On Monday night, 26 ANC members are said to have pleaded with Zuma to personally get involved and settle the infighting.
A member of the delegation, who did not want to be named, said: “We told the president that he must come and sort things out because we cannot allow Nelson Mandela Bay to go down like this.
“We cannot let one person rule this whole city and bring it down like this. Our president must intervene or else we will continue to rally mass action like this today.”
Zuma’s spokesmen could not be reached to confirm the meeting yesterday.
Hermans later accepted the memorandum on behalf of the leadership.
Parts of it read “For a long time now, well before the May 2011 local government elections, the REC – especially its chairperson – have persistently sought to make it impossible for the ANC government of the metro to function so that they could then remove the mayor and install their own puppets.
“The unfounded allegation that the deployees have been acting outside of the mandate of the ANC is just that.
“Only a very blind and politically illiterate person would confuse the personal power aspirations of the chairperson of the region with the legitimate mandate of the ANC,” it said.
Asked if the mayoral committee would be reshuffled, Mabuyane said: “There has been discussions about that for months now.
“When we get to that point, we want to satisfy ourselves that we have done everything possible to mend the situation. We are in a process. We want to bring stability.”