Room for a new style of politics to emerge in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro
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OPINION: The terrain in the NMBM is fluid and makes it difficult to predict the winner for the 2021 upcoming local government. The local elections will therefore probably produce further attempts at coalition-building, writes Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast and Professor Gavin Bradshaw.
The 2021 local election promises to be one of the most interesting of the democratic era – not least for the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality Bay (NMMB).
There are numerous factors at play - most of them not favouring the governing party. To name but a few, there is the public record of rampant corruption by the most senior government/party leadership, a lack of service delivery and collapsing infrastructure, electrical and water shortages, a stagnant economy, declining fiscus and escalating violence.
Resource shortages within the ruling party will also play a role. But much relates to the recent history of local government in the metro.
The NMMB has been under the spotlight since the ascendancy of an ANC faction led by former mayor Nceba Faku. The cabal rose to prominence after being elected to power at the ANC regional conference in 2008. It received the political support of the then newly elected 2007 national leadership of the ANC (in Polokwane).
The regional leadership was rewarded with regional executive positions in the ANC after supporting the rise of former president Jacob Zuma to party presidency.
In 2008, the ANC regional leadership recalled then mayor Nondumiso Maphazi and replaced her with Zamuxolo Wayile.
The new guard at that time were known as the Stalini group, constituted by a political pact of leftists and nationalists. Among others this included the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the (SACP).
After the 2011 local government elections, Wayile was redeployed as NMMB mayor. Early in his second term of office, a “cold war” broke out between Wayile and his chairperson, Faku. On the one hand, Faku accused Wayile of not wanting to carry through the mandate of the ANC regional leaders.
On the other hand, Wayile alleged that Faku was interfering in his work as mayor, and wanted to use his party chairpersonship to do business with the municipality.
This protracted conflict had a negative spillover effect on the support-base of the ANC in the metro. The political differences of the two leaders affected the running of the municipality; largely because some employee were acting in a factional way within the administration of the metro.
The behaviour affected service delivery negatively and projected the ANC in a bad light. Moreover, the ANC received damaging media coverage for corruption in the municipality.
The release of the Kabuso Report in 2011 on corruption in the NMMB implicated Faku in wrongdoing while he was the mayor and thereby escalated the magnitude of the conflict.
Moreover, according to the report (2011), former mayor Nceba Faku did not adhere to the law and took decisions unilaterally, without consulting the council; this included the approval of a R2 million grant to improve the Madiba Bay Resort, and granting a broad-based BEE construction company a contract to build the Red Location Museum.
The unethical flaunting of the municipality’s supply chain management system resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure. In addition to this, advocate Vusi Pikoli also released his forensic report on specific corruption in the NMBM relating to the bus rapid transit system. Pikoli laid bare some dubious financial transactions.
This bad publicity caused the ANC to fare poorly in the 2016 local government elections. In the final analysis, in this most solid of its bastions, the ANC received 40.92% while the DA received 46.71% (IEC, 2016). The DA formed a coalition with the EFF (5.12%), United Democratic Movement (1.91%), Congress of the People (0.94%), Patriotic Alliance (0.27%) and African Christian Democratic Party (0.36%) (IEC, 2016).
The experience of coalition politics in the NMMB in the aftermath of the 2016 local elections, where the DA managed to forge a coalition, with the UDM as its main partner illustrates some of the problems of coalition.
Tension soon grew between the new DA mayor, and his UDM deputy, and municipal council meetings grew increasingly conflicted, and majorities hard to acquire. On occasion, physical violence occurred, as when former ANC councillor Andile Lungisa broke a water jug over the head of a DA councillor. The UDM and DA could not settle their differences, and the DA then forged a second coalition, this time with the Patriotic Alliance, which had only one member in the council.
Predictably, given the tiny majority which the DA now held in the council, a sequence of votes of no confidence followed, and the Patriotic Alliance member eventually switched allegiance, allowing an ANC/EFF coalition to prevail.
In the process, race was made an important issue, as the DA-led coalition was accused of skewed service delivery and anti-poor policies in favour of the wealthier, “white” areas of the city. The Patriotic Alliance member has, however, subsequently attacked the UDM mayor who had replaced the DA mayor and personally disparaged him.
It is extremely unlikely that the ANC will gain a majority in NMBM next month, though the same may be said of all the contending parties.
Voting patterns indicate the electorate still vote along racial lines. Historically, black townships have always tended to vote for the ANC, although in 2016 many die-hard ANC supporters stayed away from the polls. This was largely the result of ANC branches in disarray, dysfunctional ward committees, and the institutionalisation of corruption.
It has also been confirmed by the work of Mcebisi Ndletyana, and Crispian Olver, that some of the ANC elite did not accept the mayoral candidacy of Danny Jordaan in 2016. The coloured (northern) areas have tended to vote for the Democratic Paryt and DA in the past. However, of late some new political parties associated with the coloured constituencies have been established, namely: Good Party and Patriotic Alliance.
The terrain in the NMBM is fluid and makes it difficult to predict the winner for the 2021 upcoming local government. The local elections will therefore probably produce further attempts at coalition-building.
We have experienced coalition rule before, and although coalitions do work well in some countries, the results have been poor in South Africa, where the politics of confrontation frequently lead to stalled governance and a lack of service delivery. One lesson that may be taken from our prior experience is a prerequisite for greater sensitivity to the needs of all parties, conflict management, and the importance of deal-making governance.
In the metro, with its exceptional levels of unemployment and poverty, for local government not to fail miserably in providing a better life for all its residents, it is important, not only that parties understand the importance of co-operation and mutual understanding, but also that the values infuse the broader population; as numerous, recent cases of failed service provision across the country have shown; people working together can do it for themselves, especially when the government cannot.
* Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast is a senior lecturer in the Department of History and Political Studies at Nelson Mandela University.
** Gavin Bradshaw is retired professor at Nelson Mandela University in the Department of History and Political Studies.
*** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.