AN overwhelming majority of ANC councillors in Nelson Mandela Bay boycotted a crucial council meeting yesterday, choosing to obey instructions from the party rather than metro bosses.
In the latest, most dramatic display of the power struggle in the city, only mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and four councillors who support him were left at the Old Wool Board Exchange yesterday morning.
The boycott came as the ANC’s head of its national disciplinary committee, Derek Hanekom, leads a delegation of national leaders to intervene in the political impasse between the party’s regional leadership and its deployees in the municipality.
Many of the councillors snubbed the meeting because regional leaders Nceba Faku and Zandisile Qupe had instructed that it be postponed.
This left Wayile, his deputy Nancy Sihlwayi, speaker Maria Hermans, chief whip Feziwe Sibeko and ward 41 councillor Mbongeni Bhungane alone with councillors from opposition parties.
Hermans adjourned the meeting for 20 minutes, waiting for more councillors to come in. Some who support Wayile showed up briefly but left quickly, deciding that instead of having opposition parties in the majority, they would rather the meeting did not happen.
Hermans then adjourned the meeting indefinitely because there was no quorum.
The council was meant to discuss the extension of acting municipal manager Themba Hani’s contract, which expires on Wednesday.
The postponement also stalls the implementation of important service delivery projects which were given the nod when the 2012/13 budget was passed last month.
And it pushes back a decision on what to do with the posts of seven acting executive directors whose contracts end soon.
In his letter to the municipal management on Tuesday, Qupe said the ANC leadership had decided that the meeting be postponed until the managers’ contracts were discussed with the party first.
He also summoned the municipal bosses to a retreat in Port Alfred tonight, where they are required to account to the ANC about their performances as well as explain why they awarded a lucrative public transport contract to two national companies without consulting the party first.
Qupe said yesterday the regional executive committee had instructed the councillors to postpone the meeting so the REC could have enough time to discuss certain issues, like the Integrated Public Transport System, at length with its deployees.
"The ANC advises its deployees and they decide on the appropriate course of action to take within the prescripts of the law,” Qupe said.
"We thought that the issues to be discussed at [yesterday’s] meeting should have been discussed with us first.
"We requested that the meeting be postponed but were told that it could not be postponed, so it went ahead but had to be adjourned because of absenteeism.”
Wayile described the situation as "painful and unfortunate”.
He said he was determined and committed to "marshal an institution that was highly challenged”.
"At times, there are external factors that are not in your control, but we are determined as the mayor and the troika to run the institution according to the legislation as set out in the constitution and in the best interest of the residents of this metro,” Wayile said.
"We are assigned a responsibility and so far we are not politically confused about our mandate and that of the ANC.
"We have been marshalling an institution under a serious political storm, but we have not transgressed any policy of the ANC and any government policy.
"I am still waiting for the day when a person can say ‘this is our political cry’.”
Wayile said his bosses could not fault him because he did not flout any ANC or government policies.
"I am still waiting for the political trial that says I have betrayed the policies, but there is nothing on me. I have been running the municipality under the legislation of the ANC and government.
"A municipality that is weak is a paradise for looting and I will not allow a paradise for scavengers who want to loot.
"If I have to pay the price for that, I will leave a happy man knowing I have not transgressed and I have had the best interests of the residents at heart,” Wayile said.
Opposition party leaders were livid that they had been left in the lurch.
UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani said: "We strongly condemn the actions of the ANC today. We came to the meeting hoping it would take place but suddenly the ANC councillors left.”
COPE councillor Mzwandile Hote said the ANC was at its "lowest point in the history of ANC politics”.
DA councillor Leon de Villiers said: "This whole situation shows that the ruling party is mismanaging the metro and has a total disregard for the people of this metro.”
ACDP councillor Marlon Booysens said the situation was "one big circus”.