Eastern Cape DA leader and newly-elected Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Nqaba Bhanga has rejected Cooperative Governance MEC Xolile Nqatha’s letter in which he declared Bhanga’s election “wrongful, unlawful and null and void”.
Bhanga was speaking during a press conference in the Port Elizabeth city hall on Monday where he called the letter, addressed to council speaker Buyelwa Mafaya, as an overreach.
Bhanga was elected as the mayor of the NMB municipality on Friday night during a chaotic council meeting presided over by the Patriotic Alliance’s Marlon Daniels, after Mafaya was forcefully removed from her chair by three men.
In the letter, dated 8 December, Nqatha said he received a report from the acting city manager about the council meeting.
“According to the report, it clearly shows that the election of the acting speaker by councillors to preside over the election of an executive mayor was done in contravention of [the] terms of section 36 (3) of [the] Local Government: Municipal Structure Act, 1998. Neither the acting city manager nor a person designated by the MEC presided over the election of the acting speaker on 4 December. The election of the acting speaker was therefore wrongful, unlawful and null and void,” said Nqatha.
Bhanga, however, believed his election could only be set aside by means of a judicial review. “Therefore, the letter from the MEC is, in essence, an attempt at setting aside the election of the executive mayor in Nelson Mandela [Bay] Metro, without following due process. If the MEC wants to take a decision to nullify the processes, unfortunately he doesn’t have the jurisdiction.”
“He is supposed to run to the court and explain why he believes the council meeting of Nelson Mandela Bay was not properly convened,” said Bhanga.
Cogta spokesperson in the Eastern Cape, Mamkeli Ngam, said: “We are not going to respond to what councillor Bhanga is saying to the media. We stand by the letter the MEC sent to the council speaker and the MEC will do everything… to try and bring stability in that municipality.”
Political analyst and lecturer at Nelson Mandela University’s department of political and conflict studies, Ongama Mtimka, said Nqatha’s letter was understandable given the circumstances of the meeting.
“The person presiding over the meeting of council that elected Nqaba Bhanga as executive mayor, had a non-compliance in a sense that there was neither the municipal manager, speaker nor a representative from the province (Cogta) to preside over that meeting.
“But that notwithstanding, the approach of the MEC, does not show a genuine commitment to finding a solution in Nelson Mandela Bay in a neutral way. The ANC, in general, seems to be committed to finding a solution here which favours them and, in fact, are not showing any willingness to commit to ensuring that there is a political transition that is moving towards stability in Nelson Mandela Bay not withstanding an outcome that may not favour them,” said Mtimka.