Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has ordered Eastern Cape Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha to urgently investigate the mayoral vacancy in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The mayoral position has been vacant for six months.
In a letter to Nqatha, dated 6 June, Dlamini-Zuma said the report must include time frames to fill the mayoral vacancy, as well as measures to ensure voting takes place by secret ballot, should there be no candidate elected for the position.
This comes after DA Eastern Cape provincial leader and party mayoral candidate Nqaba Bhanga wrote to Dlamini-Zuma and detailed speaker Buyelwa Mafaya’s delaying tactics in the voting of a new mayor.
Mafaya has refused at least six petitions for a mayoral election.
Without an elected mayor, the metro has lacked accountability, legitimacy and credibility, Bhanga told the minister.
He also added that Nqatha’s silence meant he approved of the speaker’s actions.
Bhanga relayed to the minister how Mafaya evaded four attempts to petition a mayoral election, even instructing staff in charge of accepting council documents to refuse acceptance of petitions.
He said the councillors also attempted to serve motions and petitions via email, but were refused.
“I personally attempted to attend to service as well and can attest that we were being met with an obstructionist agenda,” he wrote.
Another petition of 61 councillors from the DA and smaller parties was submitted to Mafaya on Monday.
The metro has been without a mayor since the UDM’s Mongameli Bobani was booted out through a vote of no-confidence in December. Bobani was removed after his alliance with the ANC and the so-called Black Caucus fell apart.
His removal led to a vacuum in the City, forcing the ANC to vote in his deputy, Thsonono Buyeye, as acting mayor.
Bhanga called on the minister to “educate Mafaya with regards to her duties and obligations” and to accept lawful motions and petitions by the council.
A fresh election before the local government elections could see the DA regaining the metro.
The DA has 57 of the council’s 120 seats. The ANC has 50 and the EFF six. The UDM has two, while COPE, the ACDP, PA, AIC and United Front have one each.
This means the DA needs four more seats for a majority coalition.
While it is expected COPE and the ACDP would work with the DA, as it does elsewhere, it would still need the UDM’s two seats, even if the PA – which has played on both the DA and ANC’s sides on different occasions – enters the coalition.
“The Municipal Structures Act clearly states that filling of a mayoral vacancy is obligatory and, therefore, council is prescribed by law to elect a mayor. All decisions taken under an interim mayor can, therefore, possibly be seen as unlawful and subject to legal scrutiny,” Bhanga said.
Bhanga added that acting mayor Buyeye was intent on tabling a draft budget and IDP (integrated development plan) in council.
“The Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) states clearly that the responsibility of the budgeting process is that of the Executive Mayor.”
Mafaya could not be reached for comment and News24 will reflect the comment when it is received.