Bobani’s ‘plan’ to ignore PE’s white suburbs for service delivery backfires on UDM

Mongameli Bobani (grey blazer) during a municipal council meeting on May 23, 2017 in Port Elizabeth. Picture: Gallo Images

Mongameli Bobani (grey blazer) during a municipal council meeting on May 23, 2017 in Port Elizabeth. Picture: Gallo Images

The party appears to be in damage-control mode and the DA has rejected Bobani’s evident attempts to spin his way out of it.

After the newly installed mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Mongameli Bobani of the UDM, reportedly said the entire budget for the municipality’s next financial year would be allocated to the townships and Northern Areas, a nasty war of words has ensued between the UDM and the DA.

Following numerous media reports critical of the spending plan, which allegedly included not even fixing sewerage problems, Bobani has accused the DA of  encouraging residents to stop paying their rates, which the DA has rejected “with contempt”.

The DA had earlier expressed its shock at reports that the suburbs were to be purposely neglected. Bobani had also reportedly said that if affluent areas reported sewage problems, he would instruct Andile Lungisa, the ANC’s new MMC for infrastructure and engineering, to ignore the complaint.

The election results of 2016 suggested that most of the DA’s voters came from suburbs, which remain predominantly white, while the ANC and other ‘black caucus’ parties’ votes came from townships and the Northern Areas, which are predominantly black and coloured areas, respectively.

The UDM tried to put political spin on Bobani’s comments on Wednesday by saying he had merely been “calling the DA’s mischievous bluff”.

In a statement, Bobani said: “This was not a policy statement and I want to put the comment in context. It is my considered view that local governments exist for the purpose of providing basic services equally to all residents. Service delivery should always be improving, and excellent service delivery is my administration’s goal.

He alleged that “the Democratic Alliance, after it lost the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, has urged suburban residents to stop paying their rates and taxes. My comment was merely made to call their bluff. The city needs its ratepayers to be vigilant in paying their dues. I assure ratepayers that their money will be used strictly in accordance with the approved budget. I urge all the people of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, all the ratepayers, and all the residents, to unite behind a coalition government of a majority of elected representatives in improving service delivery equally for all, from the poorest communities to the most affluent communities.”

However, DA Eastern Cape provincial chairperson Andrew Whitfield said they rejected “with utter contempt allegations that the party encouraged residents of Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) to stop paying their rates and taxes”.

They called Bobani the “illegitimate Executive Mayor of NMB”, claiming he had made the allegations about their supposed boycott in an effort to “deflect attention” from the recent “irresponsible statement” made by him.

“Bobani is now trying to escape blame by dragging the DA into this. We challenge Bobani to provide proof that the DA called on residents to refrain from paying rates and taxes.

“The DA does not support a rates boycott and we call on all NMB residents to stay calm during this time.

“The DA and its coalition partners have shown in its approved budgets in government that there is a commitment to correct imbalances in our society.

“In the previous financial year the DA and its coalition partners succeeded in spending close to R1.1 billion on capital works that have directly improved the lives of people oppressed by poverty and made for better service delivery.

“It is important to note that the 2018/19 municipal budget passed by the DA and its coalition partners is focused on alleviating the plight of the poor in the Metro. Services such as the Assistance to the Poor (ATTP) will see recipients receive R2 billion over the medium term.

“We are fully aware that the affluent subsidise communities oppressed by poverty and denying that is irresponsible.”

Whitfield said that Bobani’s plan of ignoring the suburbs would backfire, as “any mayor claiming to withhold budget and services from the affluent compromises the everyday lives and future of communities oppressed by poverty”.

The DA said they would “never allow Bobani to withhold services from certain residents”.

“The ANC-led coalition of corruption and its puppet mayor Bobani plan to milk the City dry and feel nothing for the wellbeing of the people of the Metro.

“It is important to note that it is the failing ANC that has proudly placed someone like Bobani in a leadership position. He dances to the tune of the failing ANC and has no real power as mayor.”

Whitfield maintained that Athol Trollip was the real executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay.

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