Fight for control of Nelson Mandela Bay
Political parties plot and plan amid hung council
The Nelson Mandela Bay coalition government is facing a new crisis – a hung council that is at the mercy of opposition parties for it to properly govern the city.
Following the DA’s victory in both ward by-elections last week – wards 35 and 37 – the opposition’s support in the council has placed it on an equal footing with the UDM/ANC-led coalition which governs with the help of the EFF.
The DA is hoping to capitalise on its recent wins to try to unseat mayor Mongameli Bobani and take back control of the municipality.
There are, meanwhile, growing calls from within the ANC for the council to be dissolved and for local government elections to be held afresh in the Bay, on the basis that the metro lacks proper leadership.
And amid the plotting among parties for control of the municipality, the city is only weeks away from its June 30 deadline for the budget for the next financial year to be passed.
To pass the budget, there has to be a 61-member majority in the council that approves it.
But there is a hung council at present, with a 60-60 split between the coalition – including the EFF – and the opposition.
The seat allocations in the council are: DA 57, ANC 50, EFF six, UDM two, and COPE, ACDP, the United Front, AIC and PA one each.
The numbers could change as ANC Ward 20 councillor Bongo Nombiba’s fate – whether or not he will go to jail for an effective five years – is in the hands of the Constitutional Court.
Should the court throw out his appeal, there would have to be a by-election in Ward 20 which could leave a vacancy in the council, and a one-seat drop for the ANC, for up to three months.
The ruling coalition government – UDM, ANC, AIC and United Front – have a combined 54 seats and they have been able to govern with the help of the EFF and three former DA councillors who turned on their party.
They are former wards 35 and 37 councillors Trevor Louw and Neville Higgins, and PR councillor Victor Manyati.
While DA provincial chair Andrew Whitfield said Manyati’s membership had been terminated by the party in April, after a protracted legal and party disciplinary process, Manyati said on Monday he had not been notified of the decision.
He said he had heard through the grapevine that he had been fired and, as far as he was concerned, he was still a councillor and would challenge the decision.
Whitfield said Manyati had chosen not to participate in the party’s disciplinary processes.
Former acting city boss Peter Neilson declared Manyati’s vacancy with the IEC on May 9 and the DA has already replaced him with former MP Malcolm Figg.
DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga said Bobani should pack his bags.
“Bobani’s days are numbered and we are preparing to form a new government in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“We’re going to make sure we get 61 votes and remove him,” Bhanga said.
“The only thing Bobani has to do now is pack his belongings from City Hall.”
The ANC, meanwhile, bolstered by the May 8 national and provincial results – which saw the party’s support increase from about 40% in the 2016 local government elections in the Bay to 46% – is hoping an election rerun would see it claw its way back to taking total control of the municipality.
On Sunday, the ANC Youth League in the Bay called on the new provincial government to place the municipality under administration with immediate effect.
In the statement, ANCYL regional secretary Luyolo Nqakula accused Bobani of being “useless” and “ignorant” of the realities facing the metro’s residents.
“Our mayor is nothing short of a joke and has no political, theoretical, philosophical or ideological clarity to back up his work.
“We therefore resolved to call on the provincial executive of government to put this municipality under administration,” Nqakula said.
In an interview later, he said: “We are of the view that an election rerun is one of the mechanisms that can be used to bring institutional stability in the metro.”
ANC regional task team convenor Nceba Faku said the task team would strategise over what to do with the Bay municipality before June 15.
“It’s true the situation in Nelson Mandela [Bay] is of concern to the ANC and has been even during the times of [the] DA.
“The ANC seeks undiluted power to govern so that it is able to implement its policy, and also [ensure] there is no environment where excuses could be made,” Faku said.
“We are going to discuss this because we have also, during the election campaign as we interacted with residents, picked up that loyal ANC members are not happy with how things are currently and that is reflected in the numbers.
“We are happy with the response of the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, they have confidence in the ANC.
“We will analyse this ward for ward and see what works for us and what doesn’t.”
The EFF’s Bay chair Ngawethu Madaka said negotiations were under way.
“We will only be able to consider a way forward once we know what the offers are.
“We only want one thing and that is [a] clean government,” Madaka said.
Madaka said should the EFF national bosses instruct them to support the removal of Bobani, they would do so.
“The call does not even [have to] come from our national leadership, it can come from us.
“We are not saying let’s do away with the current coalition, but we are saying the current coalition does not have leadership.
“If we keep it in power we will definitely change the leadership.
“Bobani is [a] caretaker [mayor] and we needed him to keep this thing intact.
“Everyone can see that the municipality is in chaos, everything is chaotic and it affects service delivery,” Madaka said.
Responding to calls to oust him as mayor, Bobani said he was here to stay.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to remain as mayor.
“This black coalition government will continue ruling until the 2021 municipal elections and beyond,” he said.
“Even if the DA got their 57 seats back, that still doesn’t put them above 60 seats.
“The DA must relax. “We’re preparing to discuss the budget in next week’s council meeting and we’re going to pass it without the DA.”
Patriotic Alliance councillor Marlon Daniels said the party was willing to talk to any party that would prioritise the northern areas.