Mongameli Bobani is mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) municipality, and could be for the next three years.
That’s what Port Elizabeth High Court judge Johann Huisamen ruled.
The ruling followed a challenge by the DA against Bobani’s election on August 27.
And thus Bobani ended Athol Trollip’s two-year mayoral tenure.
Some people could not imagine the court ruling in Bobani’s favour.
And Bobani’s first act in office did nothing to convince them otherwise.
Spinning round in his seat, he smiled as he told his supporters how delighted he was to be in the mayoral chair.
This lack of composure showed a lack of understanding of the key role he was taking on.
It turned out Judge Huisamen could not have spared the people of Port Elizabeth from Bobani, even if he wanted to. The DA knew that too. They had no grounds to challenge Bobani’s election.
The DA claimed that the meeting that elected Bobani did not quorate. It claimed that councillor Mxolisi Manyati had been expelled from the DA and was no longer a councillor.
Manyati, it said, was axed for abstaining from voting for the DA Speaker, and in so doing, denied the UDM and its allies a majority.
However, while publicly maintaining that Manyati’s membership was terminated on August 27 after a lunchtime teleconference, the party was privately revising the date of termination to the next day.
This revision, according to the judge, was occasioned by the realisation “that their impromptu termination of Manyati’s membership ... was premature”.
“The DA’s internal disciplinary documents clearly indicated that, as far as the DA was concerned, August 28 was Manyati’s last day as a member of the DA,” said Huisamen.
This was the party’s sorry attempt to comply with its own constitutional stipulation that one’s membership couldn’t be terminated arbitrarily without giving the affected individual an opportunity to defend themselves.
So, Manyati remained a DA member for one more day after orchestrating the DA’s downfall. Once the party realised its expulsion of Manyati was irregular, it should not have gone to court.
This was a clean defeat as it went to court on faith, not facts.
With the change in political leadership, the administration won’t remain unaffected. Bobani and the ANC have already served city manager Johann Mettler with a notice of suspension.
This after Mettler objected to Bobani’s instruction, with hardly a week in office, to halt recruitment and the issuing of tenders. Mettler protested that these were administrative and not political issues.
Bobani responded, saying: “We have reason to believe that quite a lot is not going right [legally] … the current leadership is contemplating a moratorium until thorough briefings with compiled reports have been done by the respective directorates.”
Bobani wants us to believe he is meddling with the administration – a clear breach of regulations – in order to clean it up.
The ANC’s return to power through Bobani is a poisoned chalice. It lost power because of corruption and internecine fights. Since losing power in 2016, it has continued this way.
Cheered on in 2017 by then president Jacob Zuma, Andile Lungisa defied party rules by standing for election as regional chair. He eventually complied, but the region has been without a chairperson since March 2017.
The party was due to convene a regional conference in March to elect a new chair, but did not have enough members to do so.
Instead of fixing the organisation, party leaders have been focused on regaining power and disrupting the DA in the metro.
Life has been tough for the ANC as the opposition. Leaders did not only lose high-paying jobs in the mayoral committee, but a number of party loyalists lost employment.
Without any influence on the issuing of tenders, donors deserted the organisation. They had become accustomed to donations in return for contracts.
The ANC in the NMB is broke. Electricity at its regional office was cut off because it could not pay a R200 000 bill.
Party leaders need patronage for self-aggrandisement and to function. That’s why they want to return to power.
Their pre-occupation with patronage the last time around resulted in the city’s mismanagement. It seems there’ll be more of the same now.
The two powerful men in the coalition, Bobani and Lungisa, have scant regard for rules. Lungisa may not be chair, but he still wields enormous authority. He handled the purse for the Eastern Cape leg of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s failed campaign for the presidency.
He may still have funds left from that campaign. A whole cadre of influential leaders depend on him for their livelihood.
With this dubious duo in charge, the municipality is likely to be mired in controversy. Already Bobani said he would punish the DA-supporting white residents of the city by redirecting the entire budget to the townships and coloured communities.
And he was serious about getting his hands on the tenders. Power is a vice for the ANC’s local elites, not a means to transform the metro.
Ndletyana is an associate professor of politics at the University of Johannesburg