‘We’re going to clean up the rot’

Rochelle de Kock dekockr@avusa.co.za

AFTER a turbulent fortnight in Nelson Mandela Bay politics, mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and his boss, Local Goverment MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, came out guns blazing yesterday, vowing to clean up the rot which has pushed the city’s administration to the brink of collapse.

Ugly tensions, infighting and power struggles in the regional ANC last week prompted Wayile to call for urgent intervention from the party’s national leaders.

He also fired acting municipal manager Elias Ntoba, despite strong objections from his political peers.

The mayor has been increasingly distant from a faction of the ANC’s regional executive who are furious with him because he refuses to take instructions. His detractors have also previously blasted Qoboshiyane, accusing him of interfering in local politics.

BATTLE WON: Weekend Post editor Jeremy McCabe and The Herald editor Heather Robertson receive the Kabuso report from MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane. Behind them are local government superintendent-general Stanley Khanyile and Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Zanoxolo Wayile (second from right) Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
Qoboshiyane hit back yesterday, saying: “My responsibility is to monitor and supervise municipalities  …

“Once there is an investigation into the municipality, if it does not uphold its administration obligations, the MEC can intervene in the administration. I must supervise and intervene where needed.”

Qoboshiyane was speaking at a press conference at the Port Elizabeth City Hall where he handed over the explosive Kabuso report to The Herald and Weekend Post as ordered by the High Court last week.

The report details years of alleged maladministration and financial mismanagement amounting to millions of rands since 2003.

It implicates former mayor and ANC regional head Nceba Faku – who is also Wayile’s political rival – in dodgy land deals with prominent businessmen during his term in office. Some of the findings in the controversial report, commissioned by the provincial local government department in 2009, include the flawed handling of major projects, such as:

ýThe Madiba Bay Leisure Park, which was planned for along Marine Drive;

ýThe scrapped Embizweni cultural village at Wells Estate; and

ýThe leasing of The Willows, Van Stadens and Beachview resorts.

The report also implicates Madiba Bay Resorts director Johann Dreyer, Africorp International and Unique Mbane.

Qoboshiyane and Wayile yesterday strongly condemned maladministration and political interference in the municipality, saying it would not be tolerated.

At the press conference, Qoboshiyane introduced new acting municipal manager Themba Hani, whose mandate includes separating administration from political influence.

Speaking about Hani, Qoboshiyane said: “We are all aware that the former municipal manager [Ntoba] has been given his marching orders. We could not stand back and watch the collapse of the institution under my jurisdiction as MEC.” Before firing Ntoba last week, Wayile accused him of being a “political conduit” who had apparently admitted to taking his orders from elsewhere, other than from the council.

“Mr Hani will be here for no more than 90 days, we hope, and in no time we will see that there are professional services provided,” Qoboshiyane said. “This is a municipal manager for administration. He is not here as a deployed politician  …

“This is an opportunity to avoid roles being blurred. The municipal manager will assist the political structures, but they must remember his role is an administrative one.”

Backed by his confidantes – deputy mayor Nancy Sihlwayi, council speaker Maria Hermans and chief whip Feziwe Sibeko – Wayile said while there had been “challenging and turbulent times”, the municipality would get back on its feet and draw “serious lessons” from the challenges.

“Those areas where people have been cited as individuals in the report  …  all the processes of the law will be followed to the logical conclusion. Even the people owing us money, those people must pay back the money of the taxpayers.

“If there are people who have contravened the law through corrupt practices, then the law must take its own course  …  We commit ourselves to clean governance.

“On behalf of the institution, we’ll ensure that all measures are taken in terms of the recommendations and findings of the report.”

But it could take at least three months before the municipality institutes any legal action against the people implicated in the Kabuso report.

The full report with recommendations will be tabled at a full council meeting today.

The council’s recommendations would have to be given to Qoboshiyane, who would consolidate a report on the investigation and the municipality’s response to it, and give it to the national Department of Cooperative Government, the minister of finance and National Council of Provinces.

 Qoboshiyane slated the municipality’s lease of office premises at Kwantu Towers while the city owned buildings with adequate office space.

“The continuous renewal of the lease of office premises without consideration of the proper supply chain management processes  …  was wastage that must be curbed,” he said. “We must start tightening our belts in this metro.

“People are not taking these serious matters seriously; they must be stopped. This needs a strong, diligent council to deal with these issues.”

Speaking about the influence of political tensions on the institution, Wayile said: “There might be some political tension, but as far as the institution is concerned, everybody must work according to the rules.

“We are going to surprise everybody moving forward. We will overcome the challenges …  They will not try to obstruct the institution and if they try, we’ll always find a way to overcome it,” he said.

An anti-Wayile ANC leader insisted yesterday that the position of a municipal manager was one of deployment and it could not be done without interference.

“He must get his instructions from the mayor and chief whip and they are political leaders.

“The issue now is that Wayile does not want to take directives from Standard House and that is a big problem.

“We have not changed our minds about removing him [Wayile].

“We are just waiting for the PWC [provincial working committee] to come back to us and say whether they agree or not because we made our case to them and we are not backing down.

“We are still strong as the regional executive committee and our branches are still behind us.”

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