Nelson Mandela Bay's UDM mayor Mongameli Bobani. Picture: THE HERALD
Nelson Mandela Bay's UDM mayor Mongameli Bobani. Picture: THE HERALD

To pass the R12bn budget and save the Nelson Mandela Bay metro from being placed under administration, mayor Mongameli Bobani was forced to reshuffle his mayoral committee on Wednesday.

He curiously appointed his rival Patriotic Alliance (PA) councillor Marlon Daniels as the political head of the crucial economic development directorate.

Daniels, who failed in his February motion to remove Bobani from office, took over from ANC councillor Noluthando Pink, who was moved to the safety and security directorate. He was the political head for roads and transport directorate under ousted DA mayor Athol Trollip’s administration.

Bobani was elected as mayor in August 2018 after Trollip was removed following a motion of no confidence. Bobani was Trollip’s deputy but was ousted from the position following ructions in the then DA-led coalition government.

The political developments in Nelson Mandela Bay highlight the viability of coalitions as SA prepares for the 2021 local government elections.

In the 2016 local elections the ANC lost the crucial metros of the capital city Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay to DA-led coalitions. Analysts argued at the time it was a historic fact that former liberation movements start losing power in urban areas before being booted out of power by the electorate.

This week’s reshuffle came after a fourth attempt to pass the budget by the council failed, and amid revelations that councillors, including Daniels, COPE’s Siyasanda Sijadu and Bobani, had received threatening late-night calls to support the budget.

Trollip, who is also the DA federal chair, said Wednesday was the fourth attempt to pass what he described as a “deeply flawed budget”, which had not come anywhere close to meeting the compliance requirements to be passed.

“Bobani knows that if it is not passed by the end of June, that’s the end of his tenure as mayor. Everyone but Bobani is keen to see the end of him,” Trollip told Business Day. “He knows that if the council is placed under administration, it will, for all intents and purposes, mean an ANC takeover.”

You can’t have an enemy in politics and government. You have to work with everyone
Mongameli Bobani

The UDM, of which Bobani is a member, only has two seats in the council and his mayoral committee is largely made up of ANC councillors.

“He has offered Marlon Daniels, his eternal enemy, a mayoral committee seat. This is a case of transactional politics,” said Trollip, adding that Daniels had an “emotional and expletive-filled rant/performance in council” on Wednesday, in which he told everyone  he would not tolerate himself and his family being threatened.

Daniels accused an ANC councillor, alleged to be Andile Lungisa (the political head of infrastructure, engineering, electricity and energy directorate), of being responsible for the threats.

“[Daniels] said he would not support the budget and that they could shove the position they had offered him where the sun doesn’t shine,” Trollip said. “How, then, is one expected to reconcile that with the fact that not long thereafter — within an hour — [Daniels] was negotiating with the ANC and Lungisa about his [mayoral committee] position, which he then accepted. What happened to the threats and the outrage ostensibly attached thereto?”

Lungisa said it was “pure nonsense” that he was behind the threats and said the metro will not tolerate “thuggerism”. “It’s public knowledge that I was part of the councillors who were working hard to bring Daniels to be part of the government. We have been working hard to ensure we have 61 councillors to pass the budget on Friday,” he said.

Trollip, however, characterised the coalition arrangement running the Eastern Cape’s biggest metro with the largest municipal budget, as “very unstable".

‘The last days’

Bobani also had many issues weighing heavily around his neck, said Trollip, and these include the Hawks’ investigation into allegations of tender fraud and corruption within the metro between 2015 and 2017, in which Bobani is allegedly implicated. “These are the last days of Bobani,” said Trollip. 

Bobani admitted to Business Day on Thursday that the council had been struggling to pass the budget he tabled earlier in June. He said reshuffling his mayoral committee was an ace up his sleeve as it now “gives us enough numbers to pass the budget [on Friday].”

“Number two: this is not only about the budget. I want to include all parties to be part of the government. We are also calling on the ACDP and COPE to come on board,” said Bobani. “Let’s work together to ensure we serve the interests of our communities without any prejudice.”

That he had appointed his “enemy” to his mayoral committee was a non-issue. “You can’t have an enemy in politics and government. You have to work with everyone.”

In the 2016 local government elections, the ANC in the metro received 50 seats in the 120-seat council, while the DA got 57, UDM two; EFF six; AIC, UFEC, COPE, ACDP and PA received one seat each.

The UDM/ANC coalition needs the support of 61 councillors to pass the budget.

Daniels and PA leader Gayton Mckenzie could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nelson Mandela University political analyst Ongama Mtimka said that it was not uncommon to “have people who project themselves as arch-rivals on a certain day to turn around and be coalition partners the next day”.

“I think the most fluid political support in that council has been that of the PA. Daniels has moved from being a pro-DA supporter to being against the new coalition, to being for it. As recently as Wednesday, he threatened to not participate in the budget vote,” he said

“The political relationship there has been very fluid and I don’t think it’s unique to Nelson Mandela Bay. We have seen even in other metros ... people wanting to change positions, but they are not as chaotic as Nelson Mandela Bay.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za