FURTHER drastic changes in the municipality’s leadership are being nervously awaited by stunned ANC insiders, still recovering from President Jacob Zuma’s shock disbanding of the Nelson Mandela Bay ANC regional leadership this week.
Speculation is rife that another mayoral committee reshuffle is on the cards after Zuma hinted at more big changes at a meeting with provincial, regional and branch leaders in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
“If I were a pilot, I would tell you all to fasten your seatbelts because this plane is about to take off,” he reportedly told them.
The meeting with Zuma and the ANC’s top national officials was held behind closed doors at the City Hall.
Should another reshuffle take place, it would bring a third set of political leaders to the City Hall since the beginning of the five-year term in 2011.
The disbanding of the ANC’s Bay leadership, announced at Monday’s meeting, will be finalised in the first week of next month, with a regional task team also to be named in the new year.
“He [Zuma] said there will be changes, drastic changes, but he did not elaborate,” one councillor said.
“There’s talk that maybe there’ll be another mayoral reshuffle. The president was on fire. He said: ‘If I were a pilot, I would tell you all to fasten your seatbelts because this plane is about to take off.’
“We were all laughing and clapping, but the other group [who are unhappy about the disbanding] were looking very sombre.”
Another ANC councillor said: “He [Zuma] said he would choose who should be part of the regional task team. Mayoral committee members are nervous because if he does change the [municipal] leadership, they’ll have to take a big pay cut if they become ordinary councillors.”
A third councillor said: “The president said Oom Ben [Fihla, the mayor] had tried to intervene [in the leadership squabbles] and even he was tired of the infighting …
“The mayor is tired, so I won’t be surprised if he does not come back next year.
“But I don’t see the point of a reshuffle with only a year to go before the 2016 [municipal] elections.”
ANC leaders who are unhappy with the decision made by Zuma and his executive are, meanwhile, believed to be rallying branches in an attempt to possibly appeal against the decision.
According to insiders, several branches held secret meetings on Tuesday to plot their challenge against what they consider an “unconstitutional decision” taken by the party’s top six instead of the ANC’s national executive committee, the highest decision- making body between conferences.
A branch leader at Tuesday’s meeting said they were irked, specifically, that Zuma had said the regional executive committee (REC) was being disbanded partly because it was unavailable to community organisations such as the Interdenominational African Ministers’ Association of SA (Idamasa).
Idamasa has been complaining about what it says is the moral decay of the ANC, infighting, violent service delivery protests and seeking an audience with the REC to no avail.
The branch leader said they were planning to appeal against the decision before Zuma appointed the task team prior to the party’s January 8 birthday celebrations, being held in Cape Town on the 10th.
Another branch leader at the meeting, however, poured cold water on the planned appeal, saying the disbanding was a directive from the most senior leadership of the ANC and could not be challenged.
“All we want to do is discuss how we will strengthen the structures of the ANC to work well with the task team that will be appointed by the leadership.
“There is no way to challenge the decision. It was a directive.”
He said while Zuma had hinted at a possible mayoral reshuffle, they did not believe that was the way to go.
“It is only a little more than a year before the local government elections.
“Any new leadership appointed now will be a caretaker leadership.
“They won’t be able to introduce any new plans, [only] implement the plans that are already in progress,” the man said.
He said it was also unfair that the local leadership was “punished for protests resulting from failures by other spheres of government”, such as the teacher shortage crisis in the northern areas, and slow delivery of houses, both funded by provincial government.
Another leader predicted that Zuma would appoint a task team comprising people loyal to him.
“This cancer of factionalism will not be solved by this as Baba [Zuma] will make sure he sends a team that will be loyal to him because he still wants to lead as well. Factionalism will always be there.” – Rochelle de Kock and Mkhululi Ndamase