Battle for the Bay

2014-12-21 15:00

The chairperson of the ANC in the Eastern Cape, Premier Phumulo Masualle, has admitted his party is worried about losing power in Nelson Mandela Bay in the 2016 local government elections.

This week President Jacob Zuma and his top five disbanded the Nelson Mandela Bay region’s leadership after years of political instability that has left the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality battling with service delivery.

In an exclusive interview with City Press, Masualle said the ANC’s provincial and national leadership had decided that disbanding the region was the only way to salvage it.

“We looked at potential areas of threats.

“Looking back at our performance in the last elections, we are concerned,” said Masualle.

The ANC won the region with just 51% in the 2011 local government elections.

The DA came second with 40% and the Congress of the People scooped 4.9% of the vote.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is widely regarded as one of the municipalities that could fall to another party in 2016.

“It’s important for us to have a very stable leadership that is capable of driving the programme of the ANC, coordinating everybody in the area in ways that can give all of us a sense of comfort,” said Masualle.

The metro has been politically precarious for some time.

Last year, city manager Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela resigned in haste from her post at the metro following reports of political interference by Mayor Benson Fihla.

Her departure came just months after the pair had been appointed to turn around the situation in Nelson Mandela Bay.

In March, the ANC’s long-serving regional chairperson Nceba Faku resigned after a series of clashes with then mayor Zanoxolo Wayile.

This came as a shock to many because he had been re-elected to the chairmanship in April last year despite a bid by Wayile to wrest control from him.

Zandisile Qupe and Chippa Ngcolomba, who were the secretary and deputy chairperson of the disbanded regional leadership, respectively, could not be reached for comment. A task team will be appointed early next month to run the region’s affairs.

“The reasons for the disbandment were the inability of the regional collective to cohere between itself, but also to be able to respond to the challenges in the environment and to give coherent leadership in the region,” said Masualle.

He was careful to add that the ANC’s leaders in the region were not “bad or immature”, but that issues between some people had limited their ability to work positively.

“In that respect, our conversation with the national officials was also in that perspective and we agreed that disbandment was the way to go.”

The Eastern Cape has been a problem area, with then finance minister Pravin Gordhan saying in March he was worried about the performance of the province’s metros of Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City.

Gordhan said at the time these were the worst performing of all the country’s metros.

Gordhan, who is now the minister of cooperative governance, was particularly critical of the region’s economic growth and job creation.

“Their housing delivery is something that others could emulate, but on the other hand the economic investment in that area is not as good as it could be.

“Yes, municipalities are faced with a lot of challenges, but the problem is that they also make too many mistakes,” Gordhan said then.

“There are mistakes with appointing the wrong people with the wrong skills, not making sure you attract the right professionals and not ensuring that we build the right capacity in terms of planning, housing delivery and special planning in some other critical areas,” said Gordhan.

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