Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium from the air. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE/THE HERALD
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium from the air. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE/THE HERALD

Eastern Cape MEC Xolile Nqatha says Treasury and the national co-operative governance and traditional affairs department have given him the go-ahead to place the troubled Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) metro under administration in an effort to ensure good governance.

Should the decision be made final, the NMB will become the second metro in the country to be placed under administration, after the Gauteng provincial government placed SA's capital of Tshwane under administration in March and appointed an administration team to run its affairs. The Tshwane decision followed sustained political infighting, which left the metro without a mayor, mayoral council or municipal manager.

The NMB metro is the epicentre of Covid-19 pandemic in the province and  has been without a mayor since the ousting of UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani in December 2019. Bobani’s deputy Thsonono Buyeye was subsequently appointed to act as mayor.

The business sector has been very critical of the political and administrative instability in Eastern Cape metro. The NMB business chamber wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa on June 15, lamenting the “prolonged dysfunctional state” of the municipality.

On June 29, Treasury deputy director-general for intergovernmental relations Malijeng Ngqaleni wrote to acting city manager Mvuleni Mapu, warning of the Treasury’s intention to withhold the remaining local government equitable share of about R700m after the council failed to comply with budget processes. The Treasury had also considered Mapu's appointment to be “irregular and therefore unlawful”.

In an interview with Business Day on Friday, Nqatha, who is the MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs said he had given the council seven days to motivate why the metro should not be placed under administration over its failure to appoint a permanent executive mayor and properly address the acting city manager's issue.

“To have someone acting as executive mayor perpetually cannot be in the interest of good governance.”

“I have taken this decision in consultations with the Treasury, especially deputy finance minister David Masondo, and co-operative governance and traditional affairs deputy minister Parks Tau. We are in one agreement about the need to ensure good governance there,” said Nqatha. “There comes a point where you have to draw a line now — people must comply with lawful instructions.”

Buyeye’s spokesperson, Siyanda Mxotwa, said the issues raised by Nqatha were being addressed, stressing that the city was not yet under administration.

“The letter is clear to say the intent is to get the metro under administration only if it doesn’t comply with the appointment of the executive mayor and the issues around the acting municipal manager.”

Mxotwa said the processes followed to appoint Mapu were above board as they were endorsed by council.

University of Johannesburg political analyst Prof Mcebisi Ndletyana, who has written a book on the metro’s politics, titled, Anatomy of the ANC in Power: Insights from Port Elizabeth, 1990-2019, told Business Day on Friday that placing the metro under administration was not a foregone conclusion.

“But it certainly does present justifiable reasons for the MEC to intervene. They failed to elect a proper mayor and they have flouted council procedures by irregularly appointing an acting city manager,” said Ndletyana.

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