Bhisho intervention no magic wand for Bay

Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani
Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani

In a statement this week, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane said Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani refused to sign a document acknowledging Bhisho’s intervention plans in the city.

Regardless, Bobani was given the document anyway, as the provincial government forges ahead with its plans to bring on senior officials, including an acting city manager and CFO to try to stabilise the metro’s administration.

Bobani has denied refusing to sign the document, but unconvincingly so.

His refusal to step down, despite the public outcry over the near collapse of governance, as well as his statements that there is no need for intervention in the metro, make it highly likely that he would have given the letter the proverbial middle finger.  

Bhisho’s intervention is indeed long overdue.

Evidence of an administration crisis has long been there.

The city has failed to fill vacant posts for executive directors, which by Bhisho’s own admission has paralysed the financial administration of the municipality.

It has failed to appoint a CFO, the mayor has appointed an unqualified acting city manager and, most telling, no council meetings have been held in the last four months.

The letter by co-operative governance MEC Xolile Nqatha issuing a directive to the council, in terms of Section 139 (1) (A) of the constitution, is most welcome.

The letter sets out the extent of council’s failure to fulfil its obligations and details the steps that had to be taken for the city to meet its obligations.

But it would be misguided for anyone to believe that Bhisho’s long-awaited intervention is the magic wand our city desperately needs to restore proper governance.

Bobani’s rejection of it — if the Mabuyane is to be believed – must be seen as a sign of the kind of resistance that likely awaits the team of Bhisho bureaucrats when they eventually make their way to City Hall in 2020.

Considering what appears to be a highly organised, potentially criminal, political syndicate operating in our city in recent months, it would be naive to believe that any efforts to clean up would be welcomed with open arms.

The question then becomes how the provincial government plans to navigate the prevailing political conditions in the metro.

It is highly debatable that there can be any successful administrative intervention while the council — arguably an enabling machine of the political toxicity — remains intact.

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