STOP the petty political bickering and save our Nelson Mandela Bay.
This was the unanimous message from organised business, ratepayers, religious leaders and hundreds of residents at the Feather Market Centre last night, who lashed out at municipal and political leaders for allowing their internal squabbles to plunge the "world-class city” into crisis.
Residents turned up in numbers to voice their frustrations at The Herald/ NMMU Community Dialogue, which was themed "Addressing the challenges facing our metro”.
The speakers at the dialogue – Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Mandla Madwara, Ratepayers’ Association president Kobus Gerber and Bishop Lunga ka Siboto from the Ethiopian Episcopalian Church – pleaded with the leadership not to turn a blind eye "while Rome is burning”.
The volatile political situation in the Bay has seen the ANC more divided than ever. Factions within the party have led to spats between regional head Nceba Faku and mayor Zanoxolo Wayile, severely affecting service delivery and playing out in the form of protests, the burning of councillors’ offices and postponement of important council meetings.
Organised business called for a speedy resolution to the internal strife in the city, saying it was driving away investors.
"We cannot afford a tug-of-war between Florence Matomela House [ANC regional headquarters] and City Hall,” Madwara said. "We cannot sit in an ivory tower while Rome is burning. We need to confront these issues and take the metro to its rightful place as a global city.
"Across political parties, the city comes first,” he said to loud applause. "We can turn this city around, but we need to work together.”
One of the big areas of concern was that the city had not had a permanent municipal manager since 2009. There are also only two permanent executive directors out of nine departments in the municipality.
Gerber said it was unfair for the public and ratepayers to pay for the corrupt practices of corrupt politicians. "We’ve tolerated far too much for too long and the political instability is causing the metro to fall.”
Siboto said it was "unacceptable for political leadership to abuse their positions”. He called on residents to stand up against the forces. "Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace.”
Faku did not speak on the issues raised, but said: "I’d like to request that the inputs made here by panellists be forwarded to us as the leadership, to apply our mind so we can create a similar platform to respond.”
Qoboshiyane said strengthening the capacity of the municipality was not negotiable. "We need to ensure coherence in the political leadership at all times ... We have seconded a number of officials in terms of Section 154 to ensure we realise the dreams of the people of this metro.”
Passionate Bay residents asked the panellists hard questions and demanded service delivery.
Luyolo Makwabe from Walmer township said : "We are getting a lot of leaders using Walmer as a political battlefield. What is the MEC going to do to address the service delivery needs of Walmer?”
Another resident, Xolani Nkonko from ward 21, said: "We don’t want to see who is bigger than who – we just want services.”