Pressure mounts on Nelson Mandela Bay to fill mayor vacancy

Acting Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Thsonono Buyeye.
Acting Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Thsonono Buyeye.
  • The NMB Chamber of Business is worried that, without a permanent mayor, the metro is at risk of not tabling a budget.
  • The metro has been without a mayor since 5 December, with Councillor Thsonono Buyeye in an acting capacity since then.
  • Political analyst and lecturer Ongama Mtimka said competing groupings within political parties were behind the delay.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Chamber of Business, the largest organised business group in the Eastern Cape, has written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa over the vacant Nelson Mandela Bay Metro mayor position.

In the letter to Ramaphosa, the chamber expressed dissatisfaction with the prolonged appointment of an executive mayor. Councillor Thsonono Buyeye has been acting in the position for several months.

Without a mayor to table its budget, the metro may lose its equitable share and this will have devastating effects, the business chamber told Ramaphosa in the 16 June letter.

READ | Acting Nelson Mandela Bay mayor in quarantine, bodyguard dies of Covid-19

National Treasury is empowered by Section 216 (2) of the Constitution to stop the transfer of funds (conditional and non-conditional grants) to any organ state of state that commits a serious or persistent breach of the measures prescribed to promote transparency, accountability and the effective financial management of the economy, debt and the public sector.

The metro has been without a mayor since the UDM's Mongameli Bobani was removed through a vote of no-confidence on 5 December. Bobani was removed after his alliance with the ANC and other smaller parties fell apart, News24 reported.

NMBBC spokesperson Sibongile Dimbaza said: "The outcome of this action would have dire and far-reaching socioeconomic consequences for the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay; a metro already on the brink of disaster, facing rapidly rising Covid-19 infections and the associated economic recession, an erosion of business confidence, as well as the ongoing deterioration in the management of critical infrastructure, water shortages caused by leaks and the current drought situation (with 'Day Zero' an ever-looming threat)."

Acting mayor

Bobani's removal led to a vacuum in the City, forcing the ANC to vote in his deputy, Buyeye, as acting mayor.

News24 reported last week that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma ordered Eastern Cape Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha to investigate the vacancy.

This came after DA leader Nqaba Bhanga had written to the minister to inform her about alleged delaying tactics in the voting of a new mayor.

READ | 4 nuns die of Covid-19 at Eastern Cape convent

In a letter to Nqatha, dated 6 June, Dlamini-Zuma said the report must include time frames to fill the mayoral vacancy, as well as measures to ensure voting takes place by secret ballot, should there be no candidate elected for the position.

Spokesperson in the Office of the Presidency Khusela Diko could not confirm if the president had received the June 16 letter from the business chamber. She said it was too early to tell, as it was only sent yesterday.

Ongama Mtimka, a political analyst and lecturer at Nelson Mandela University's department of political and conflict studies, said battles within groupings within political parties were behind the delay.

'Zero-sum politics'

He added: "So far you have had zero-sum politics dominating this, in terms of which one grouping of people who think they can form a sustainable solution, attempting to outsmart another whom they think they can outvote. But clearly we cannot get there."

Bhanga said the party welcomed the move by the business chamber.

READ | 'Dirty, nauseating' conditions at Eastern Cape hospitals 

"We are happy that stakeholders, like the business chamber, are very concerned by the state of the city because these individuals in the bay are abusing the laws of the republic and breaking every rule of the law, hiding by Covid-19 regulations. Democracy cannot be suspended."

ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayithobi said the municipality will find itself in deep trouble for not respecting legislation.

"There are many problems that have a potential to cripple the municipality, including non-implementation of the forensic investigations and the implications are so dire."

The recent removal of the acting municipal manager would haunt the municipality going forward, "until the political leadership and the entire leadership of that municipality learns to respect the guiding legislation and law better", Ngcukayithobi said.

"In the absence of the mayor, the deputy executive mayor executes all the functions falling in the office. We have raised the issue too, that we would have appreciated that the council elects a permanent mayor as soon as possible," he added.

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