Lizeka Tandwa | The ANC: Failing to lead in Nelson Mandela Bay

The Port Elizabeth City Hall. The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro has seen irregular expenditure of R3 billion over the past three years. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Port Elizabeth City Hall. The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro has seen irregular expenditure of R3 billion over the past three years. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Will voters in Nelson Mandela Bay once again punish the ANC over its failure to lead in the metro, like they did in 2016? asks Lizeka Tandwa. 

In 2015, a high-powered ANC delegation led by President Jacob Zuma made back-to-back visits in Nelson Mandela Bay, resulting in the disbandment of the regional executive and the appointment of soccer administrator Danny Jordan as the mayor. 

The move by Luthuli House came after years of factional infighting and poor service delivery in the municipality.

The metro, which was the hub of the province's economy, had been without a permanent municipal manager for over three years, with senior management implicated in corruption.

Administration in the metro was riddled with financial mismanagement. Labour unrest was on the rise. The streets were dirty and protest action, against the ANC government over the decline of service delivery, was increasing. 

It was largely known that the metro was in a state of paralysis. 

The most notable scandal was the multibillion rand IPTS (Integrated Public Transport System) bus route project. 

With local elections looming in 2016, Luthuli House finally decided to act.

Zuma established a task team of high-powered provincial and national leaders and calm was restored - but only for a short while. 

Empty stadium

The fatigue of the party's loyal supporters was evident when the 46 000-seater Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and its overflow fell short of meeting the expected capacity when many of its supporters crowded Port Elizabeth's beaches instead of listening to Zuma's manifesto speech ahead of the elections. 

The ANC had expected more than 100 000 people would attend the elections manifesto launch. 

At the ballot box in August 2016, the ANC's last minute reaction to the plight of the poor and the rising tide of corruption was duly punished. 

The embarrassing loss meant the party would assume the role of opposition in a DA-led coalition government. 

Fast-forward a few years later, and it appears the ANC has learnt very little from that period.  

In 2019, with the help of the EFF, the ANC managed to unseat the DA to form a coalition with smaller parties.

However, this union has been fraught with allegations of corruption. 

Another regional executive has been disbanded and the ANC council, which is known by many to control the governing coalition, is at war with the regional task team. 

The reluctance of the Premier Oscar Mabuyane's administration to confront the increasing political dysfunction has led to National Treasury threatening to take away over R800 million in grants to the metro. 

The provincial cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) department has also been moving at a snail's pace to address months of political instability.

No permanent mayor 

Even national Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's orders for the metro to elect a mayor have fallen on deaf ears.

Mind you, the metro has been without an elected mayor since December. 

With more and more revelations of tender fraud, maladministration and political instability in the province, it is clear to see that the ANC has reverted to its previous intervention tactics, which only assured an electoral suicide.

Individual advancement continues, instead of rebuilding the regional party.

The ANC's decline in Nelson Mandela Bay is a product of the ANC's own doing.

Nothing has changed and, judging from recent events, the ANC will continue to see a decline in support from its historical base. 

I am eager to see if Luthuli House will, yet again, with their tail between their legs, go back to begging Eastern Cape communities for votes they are yet to earn. 

Luthuli House, 2021 is upon us and, with it, the municipal elections. 

- Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist at News24. 

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