Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Xolile Nqatha has approached the Port Elizabeth High Court on an urgent basis, asking it to declare the 4 December election of DA leader Nqaba Bhanga as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay unlawful.
In his papers filed on Monday, Nqatha described the election of Bhanga as an “unlawful attempt”.
Nqatha said in the papers: “In the premises the Honourable Court is requested to grant the relief in the notice of motion with costs to be on the punitive scale, particularly since the election of the Executive Mayor was to obviously unlawful that it should never have been necessary for me to burden the Honourable Court with this application.”
The MEC added that the matter was urgent “because it represents a deadlock between the provincial government and the municipality over the scope of the authority which the former derives from the constitution, as it involved the failure of the speaker, the council and the municipality itself to fulfil important duties statutorily provided for in various Acts of Parliament referred to herein above and the regulations issued in terms thereof”.
Nqatha told the court that since the beginning of the term of the current municipal council, the municipality had encountered instability.
“For example, two executive mayors have been removed by votes of no confidence and, since the removal of councillor [Mongameli] Bobani, the municipal council has failed to fill the vacancy until it unlawfully attempted to do so on 4 December 2020.”
This is Nqatha’s second attempt at trying to force Bhanga to step down as mayor after he earlier wrote a letter to council speaker Buyelwa Mafaya declaring Bhanga’s election as “wrongful, unlawful and null and void”.
Bhanga slammed the 8 December letter as an overreach and dared Nqatha to take him to court.
Bhanga was elected Nelson Mandela Bay mayor during a chaotic council meeting presided by Patriotic Alliance councillor Marlon Daniels.
This came after Mafaya was forcefully removed from her presiding chair by three men who stormed the council chambers.
Daniels was elected by the majority of councillors to take over as speaker of the council meeting that had elected Bhanga.
At the time of the elections, the metro had been without a mayor for nearly a year after Bobani, the late UDM member, was booted out through a motion of no-confidence.
Not having a mayor to table its budget cost the city millions of rand as National Treasury withheld funds.
The delay in appointing a mayor was seemingly caused by certain factions within the council who could not agree on the right person to wear the mayoral chain.
Bhanga accused former councillor and ANC strongman Andile Lungisa of staging the ejection of Mafaya in order to collapse the meeting.
Lungisa denied the allegations, but confirmed that he was standing outside the chambers when the chaos broke out.
Bhanga identified the men who removed Mafaya as members of Lungisa and Mafaya’s security teams.
However, Lungisa said the men were taking part in a security personnel strike over a pay dispute with the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
NMB metro denied knowledge of the strike.
Called for comment, Nqatha’s spokesperson, Makhaya Komisa, said: “We are not commenting on the matter because it is sub judice”.
The case was expected to be heard on 19 January.