City hijacked by people with ‘dubious agendas’

Nelson Mandela Bay
Nelson Mandela Bay
Image: Karen van Rooyen

As I was busy writing this piece last Friday afternoon, I was phoned by a colleague in the legal fraternity telling me that almost the entire mayoral committee was busy consulting with a legal representative in a desperate attempt to remove acting municipal manager Noxolo Nqwazi.

While only a meeting of council can lawfully appoint or remove a municipal manager, the frantic moves to dismiss Nqwazi certainly came as no surprise as the mayoral committee has long since punted Mvuleni Mapu, a housing director in the municipality, for this position.

The fact that Mapu does not qualify for the position notwithstanding.

Mapu, of course, is no stranger to controversy. His name featured quite prominently in Crispian Olver’s book, How to Steal a City.

In the book, this was said about Mapu: “Most people were terrified of him: he carried a gun, and, in meetings with his staff, had been known to quietly place his gun licence on the table, lest there be any doubt about his intentions and capability.”

The appointment of Mapu came to pass on Monday, unfortunately not before Nqwazi received a death threat because she was unwilling to vacate the office of municipal manager.

While I have subsequently written to the National Treasury and Cogta to intervene in what I believe is the unlawful appointment of a municipal manager, it is becoming increasingly clear that for the second time in the last decade, our city has been hijacked by a group of people that have anything but service delivery or the wellbeing of our city at heart.

When Johann Mettler was appointed as city manager in 2015, he initiated various forensic investigations and laid criminal charges against a number of individuals.

These cleanup processes gained momentum under the Athol Trollip administration and, in my opinion, culminated in the first signs of some stability returning to the administration by the latter part of 2017.

Unfortunately, with the removal of Trollip and the suspension of Mettler, whatever progress made in stabilising the administration was undone in a matter of months — if not weeks.

A number of non-qualifying, junior officials were appointed to act in the position of city manager.

The city also stopped actively assisting law enforcement agencies in their investigations relating to fraud and corruption, and soon the city purse was yet again a target for individuals with dubious agendas.

Who can forget the socalled “drain cleaning contract” that caused havoc among hundreds of desperate SMMEs and culminated in a forensic investigation but, more disturbingly, a string of assassinations among these business owners.

Highlighting the state of administrative paralysis was the fact that when former mayor Mongameli Bobani was booted out of office in December last year, the metro administration had reportedly only spent 20.3% of its capital budget during the first six months of the year.

Deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye has been acting in the position of mayor since December.

During this time, speaker Buyelwa Mafaya has been unwilling to accede to requests to table a motion to fill the vacancy of mayor.

Mafaya is so hell-bent on preventing the position being filled that she even instructed her office to refuse any motions from the DA and other opposition parties in this regard.

This, clearly, is highly irregular and unlawful.

It is her job as speaker. Buyeye himself has done nothing to ensure that the vacancy is filled.

While one can assume that Buyeye, a lone councillor from the AIC with a fractional constituency, is probably enjoying the pomp and ceremony that accompanies the position, he also has a duty to protect the interests of the administration.

Unfortunately for Buyeye, this actually also entails ensuring that the mayoral vacancy is filled.

Should Buyeye wish to be the mayor, nothing stops him from making himself available.

What he cannot do is head up an administration as quasi mayor.

The Municipal Structures Act clearly states that filling of a mayoral vacancy is peremptory.

Therefore, the council has no choice. Given the recent judgment by judge Inga Stretch in the Mahkhanda High Court, a failure of a municipality to undertake its legislated responsibilities may lead to mandatory judicial intervention.

This judgment will have farreaching consequences for the metro in any forthcoming legal suits.

Even more concerning is the fact that Buyeye is seemingly intent on tabling a budget and IDP (integrated development plan) when the legislation prescribes that only a mayor may table such documentation.

DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga has warned Buyeye that he cannot rely on the delegated powers of the mayor to table the budget when the position has been vacant for an extended period without any attempt at filling it.

Should he proceed, the budget is likely to be unlawful.

Residents may just get an unexpected gift at the beginning of the financial year — the fact that they will not have to pay a cent more for municipal services as the tariff increase would have been adopted unlawfully.

However, the fact that our city is limping along without a mayor must remain a real cause for concern.

● Retief Odendaal is a DA MPL and former MMC for Finance in Nelson Mandela Bay