ACDP, UDM and COPE join DA in boycott of council meeting

DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga says there has been no proper consultation on the process of the budget for Nelson Mandela Bay
NOT PARTICIPATING: DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga says there has been no proper consultation on the process of the budget for Nelson Mandela Bay

The DA, ACDP, COPE and UDM  said they would  boycott Nelson Mandela Bay’s first virtual special council meeting on Friday, where the draft budget for the 2020/2021 financial year will be up for discussion.

This means the council meeting is unlikely to take place as the four parties occupy a combined 61 seats in the 120-seat council.

In order to reach a quorum, 61 councillors need to attend the meeting.

Eastern Cape DA leader and Bay councillor Nqaba Bhanga revealed his party’s decision during a Zoom meeting to brief media about its economic recovery plan for the city.  

“The DA will not participate in the meeting convened for Friday,” he said.

“There has been no proper consultation on the process of the budget. It has just been developed without us being engaged,” he said.

“The convening of this meeting has not been agreed to by the multi-party whippery. The speaker [Buyelwa Mafaya] cancelled all consultation meetings on the agenda.”

UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani said it was the same for his party.

“We will not attend,” he said.

COPE councillor Siyasanga Sijadu said she would only attend after Mafaya scheduled a multi-party whippery meeting.  

On his decision not to attend, ACDP councillor Lance Grootboom said: “The virtual rules of order was never communicated with councillors, which now gives all the power at the meeting to the speaker.”

Grootboom said he would also not attend as the election of a mayor and chief whip was not on the agenda.

“The continued absence of the items which deal with the appointment of a mayor and chief whip of council is gravely concerning,” he said.

Mafaya could not be reached for comment.

Bhanga also said the party would only participate in a council meeting when the voting for a mayor and chief whip was on the agenda.

“We don’t have anything in the Municipal Finance Management Act about an interim mayor. The mayor needs to be elected democratically.”

Deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye was appointed interim mayor in December until a new coalition government was formed.

It comes after former mayor Bobani was booted out through a no-confidence motion which received 108 votes out of the 118 councillors in attendance.

The municipality has proposed tariff hikes of 8% for water, sanitation and refuse, 6.22% for electricity, and 8.5% for property rates, which forms part of Friday’s agenda.

The proposed electricity price increase of 6.22% is subject to approval by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa).

Bhanga said: “We reject that proposal. This budget proposed does not assist in stabilising the financing of the municipality.

“We want a budget that will consider stabilising the economy while not comprising on municipal infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, DA councillor Renaldo Gouws outlined the party’s plan which he said would boost the city’s economy.

Gouws said key areas that needed focus included business assistance, tourism assistance, assistance to the unemployed, job creation and revitalisation of the informal economy,  public health, investment stimulation and catalytic projects.

On business assistance, he said any business should be given relief if it could prove, through a formal application, that its income had been negatively affected.

“Businesses must be able to immediately apply for the restructuring of their accounts.

“This could entail the deferment of rates, water and sanitation charges for a period of no more than three to six months.”

He said repayments would then be payable in instalments before the end of June 2021.

“No interest must be charged on municipal arrears accrued during the determined period, and must not be levied for any period over which the principal debt is repaid.”

He said should the account holder default on the arrangement without making any further arrangements, interest may be charged  on the account.

He called for financial relief to be provided through the deferment of municipal rental payments for the next three to six months, interest free, for bed and breakfasts, hotels, churches, NGOs, sports clubs and businesses.

Gouws said the municipality should consider re-establishing an independent tourism board comprising of industry role players to co-ordinate and lead aggressive marketing and promotion of tourism activities in the city.

“Now is not the time for bickering and politicking. Now is the time for us to come together as a metro and fight  for the remnants that the Covid-19 pandemic has left for our economic prospects as a metro,” he said.