Parties jive around Mongameli Bobani amid coalition talks

LEADERSHIP VACUUM: Nelson Mandela Bay DA caucus leader Jonathan Lawack, left, COPE councillor Siyasanga Sijadu, DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga and UDM regional organizer Luxolo Mamette address the media on a petition calling for a special council meeting to elect a new mayor, deputy mayor, chief whip and speaker
LEADERSHIP VACUUM: Nelson Mandela Bay DA caucus leader Jonathan Lawack, left, COPE councillor Siyasanga Sijadu, DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga and UDM regional organizer Luxolo Mamette address the media on a petition calling for a special council meeting to elect a new mayor, deputy mayor, chief whip and speaker
Image: MICHAEL KIMBERLEY

The DA and COPE  on Tuesday danced around whether they would get into bed with the UDM if councillor Mongameli Bobani was still one of its two council representatives.

The two parties have been critical of Bobani and were instrumental in removing him as Nelson Mandela Bay mayor late last year.

Speaking at a multiparty media conference, DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga said “personalities” needed to be set aside when it came to coalition talks.

The media conference was called by the DA, COPE, ACDP, UDM and the United Front to announce that they had petitioned speaker Buyelwa Mafaya to call a special council meeting on March 12.

The parties hope to remove acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye and Mafaya while also electing a new mayor, deputy mayor, chief whip and speaker.

The petition was signed by 62 councillors — including Bobani — but the ACDP and United Front did not attend the media conference.

It also calls for the removal of committee chairs and the appointments of new ones.

While Mafaya could not be reached for comment, the petition has been stamped by her office.

Asked about DA federal council chair Helen Zille’s stance on never putting Bobani back in government, Bhanga said: “We need to to set aside our personal egos and serve the people.”

He said the parties that signed the petition agreed new leadership was needed.

“The government is not functioning. There is no leadership,” he said.

The UDM and DA have been on opposite sides of the fence in the Bay since May 2017, when then DA mayor Athol Trollip fired Bobani from his position as deputy mayor.

“What would be best for the residents of the metro?

“This is all about the instability facing the city,” Bhanga said.

UDM regional organiser Luxolo Mamette represented his party and COPE  councillor Siyasanga Sijadu represented hers.

Mamette said his party would not be dictated to about what role Bobani would fill.

“UDM does not take its mandate from the DA,” he said.

Asked if she would work with Bobani again, COPE councillor Siyasanga Sijadu deflected the question.

“You are being mischievous. We are not here to discuss individuals and I refuse to discuss an individual today.

“You know my stance on the individual in question,” she said.

Sijadu, who had previously called Bobani a power-hungry madman, posted on Facebook last month that she would never entertain any coalition agreement if he was involved.

In her post, she accused Bobani of turning the metro into a “spaza shop” during his time as mayor, adding that the UDM had failed to discipline him.

“How do we justify removing a mayor in December and possibly bringing him back into government?” she questioned.

Sijadu, who read a joint statement before taking questions on Tuesday, said the city was faced with a leadership vacuum.

“This vacuum has resulted in zero direction and zero accountability of not only municipal officials but of the political heads of the various departments,” she said.

“The city is also facing a National Treasury crisis due to a failure of implementing recommendations.

“For some time, National Treasury has highlighted critical red flags from various reports; to date many of these are yet to be acted upon.”

A forensic investigation report into the IPTS, a draft copy of which was given to the municipality about three years ago, uncovered alleged large-scale corruption and how hundreds of millions of rand were wasted.

The Treasury has repeatedly raised concern that the municipality has done little to implement the recommendations contained in the report and that it has failed to deal with the high level of irregular expenditure.

This resulted in the Treasury implementing section 216 (2), allowing the department to withhold grants and shares.

Addressing the coalition talks, Sijadu said they were ongoing.

“Coalition talks have always been the prerogative of the national leaders of the various parties and that status quo remains.

“Should any future coalition be entered to, it will be one of  consensus and  equality.

“Further agreements will be made after consensus is reached by national leadership.”

Bhanga said the parties had not yet agreed to who would fill the positions if the motion was  carried.

“I have persuaded my national leaders to speed up the process and I hope so have COPE and UDM,” he said.

“People need new leadership.

“We have signed a petition to say that elections must take place, leaders must be elected, regardless of who they will be.”

ACDP councillor Lance Grootbom said he would never enter into any coalition with the UDM if Bobani was part of it.

“He left a mess behind in this city. I have raised these issues with the DA but we are in support of the special council meeting.”

Grootboom said he did not attend the media conference as he was not sure of the UDM’s position on Bobani.

“I could not stand there and damage the brand of the ACDP.”

United Front provincial executive committee member Lungile Mxube could not be reached for comment.

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