EASTERN Cape Local Government Department superintendent-general Stanley Khanyile threatened yesterday to dissolve the Nelson Mandela Bay Council and take over the administration of the metro if the support team seconded to Port Elizabeth did not produce results.
Khanyile’s comments came after opposition party councillors and a faction of the ANC lambasted the Section 154 support team sent by the department in October to assist the municipality.
Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane seconded six officials from his department, including acting municipal manager Themba Hani. Two officials from the national Department of Cooperative Governance were also deployed to the city.
The councillors told Khanyile, who presented a progress report to council on work done by the support team, to take Hani and the rest of the team back to Bhisho immediately because their presence was not bearing fruit.
The meeting also highlighted the deep divisions within the ANC over the extension of Hani’s contract, as the faction aligned to the ANC regional leadership blasted Hani for his "non-performance”.
The fierce debate was sparked by Khanyile, who said in his presentation the council had agreed that Hani’s contract would be extended until a permanent municipal manager was appointed.
This was vehemently opposed by the councillors, who denied being a party to the decision.
UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani said: "Which council meeting took that decision to extend the contract of the acting municipal manager?
"There’s no need to even consider taking back the Section 154 team, it’s a must. They must go back because they are encroaching on our own people’s work.
"Take your acting municipal manager and go with him and your Section 154 team today,” Bobani said.
ANC councillor Chippa Ngcolomba said Hani should return to his post in Bhisho while his integrity was still intact.
"We do not want to expose the municipal manager to a situation that when he exits he will hate the metro forever.
"We are saying thank you, but he has outlived his stay. It’s better to take him while he is intact. That is not a threat that he may be killed,” Ngcolomba said.
DA councillor Leon de Villiers said: "At no stage did this council seek a permanent acting municipal manager. The last time we approved his contract was until July 18.
"It’s time to get rid of the Section 154 team and get our own staff who will be here for at least five years.”
ANC councillor Thembinkosi Mafana said the municipality still had the same challenges in its supply chain management department that it had before the team arrived.
"We appreciate the intervention, but when you arrived there were challenges in supply chain and those challenges are still there.”
Khanyile said there had been no council decision requesting the removal of the support team.
"Council can say it does not want the Section 154 team anymore, as well as the acting municipal manager, but legally we need a council resolution that speaks to that,” he said.
"We interpreted the municipality’s request for an acting municipal manager as a request for one that will stay on until a permanent municipal manager is appointed.
"In terms of the constitution, if you say our support is not bearing fruit, we have to invoke Section 139 [which will place the municipality under administration],” Khanyile said.
He said Qoboshiyane had advised that if council no longer needed the Section 154 support team, they should be allowed time, until August 30, to ensure a smooth handover, "not simply a cut-off”.
"We humbly request council that if you decide you do not want the support team, you allow time for that to happen.
"We can only take the municipality forward if we work together,” Khanyile said.
The ANC then deliberated in private for about two hours because they were divided on whether or not to extend Hani’s contract.
Two ANC councillors, who did not want to be named, said there were deep divisions within the party.
One faction wanted the city’s public health head, Dr Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni, to be appointed the interim city boss, while others wanted Hani to remain in his position until a permanent municipal manager was appointed.
The DA also apparently backtracked on its comments that the support team should be removed along with Hani.
A DA councillor, who also did not want to be named, said the party had agreed to support the decision to allow Hani to continue in his post so he could continue his investigation into a few high-level officials in the municipality.
The meeting was adjourned and a decision on Hani’s future deferred to the next council meeting.