A CRUCIAL meeting meant to thrash out plans by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to buy land desperately needed to build RDP houses in Walmer township was abandoned on Friday after ANC councillors failed to arrive.
It is the fifth meeting in two months that the ANC has snubbed, delaying several service delivery projects in the city.
The absence of the councillors at the human settlements portfolio committee meeting also means that Bay businesses and residents will have to wait longer for decisions on zoning applications.
Delays in rezoning have seriously hampered business activity in the city, a major concern for organised business leaders.
Only DA and COPE councillors and municipal officials turned up on Friday and the meeting was cancelled because there was no quorum.
Two ANC councillors, Sizwe Jodwana and Scrummy Mtwa, came but left after a few minutes.
The meeting should have decided on whether or not to start negotiations to buy Walmer Area Q, the Walmer Country Club and Madiba Bay Leisure Park.
The Walmer service delivery plan, drawn up by the task team comprising municipal officials and councillors to address the residents' concerns, was supposed to be discussed at length at the meeting.
The plan is meant to tackle the challenges in the area highlighted during a spate of violent service delivery protests in May and July.
The residents are demanding housing, sanitation and electricity. They feel their plight has been ignored by the municipality.
During the protests, the rampaging residents attacked Somalis, looting their shops and burning a house to the ground.
Opposition political parties slammed the cancellation of the meeting, saying the councillors had failed the Bay's residents.
"Those councillors who failed to follow procedures and signed the attendance register and left must be reported to the speaker," DA chief whip Gustav Rautenbach said.
"The ANC has failed the residents and officials [from the human settlements department]. We are quick to jump on officials when they are not here, but we [councillors] think we are above the law.
"These officials have better things to do than waste their time like this," Rautenbach said.
DA councillor Andrew Gibbon said: "We find it unacceptable that councillors didn't avail themselves where service delivery and housing should be discussed."
COPE councillor Rano Kayser wanted to know which councillors had submitted leave applications.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Mandla Madwara said a meeting had been scheduled with the head of the municipality's planning division, Dawn McCarthy, this week to discuss delays in rezoning.
"We are shooting direct to the person responsible to avoid the tedious process of discussions and meetings," he said.
"We cannot, however, understand or accept that important meetings don't sit because there was no quorum as some councillors were absent and so on, because they have a constitutional duty to attend these meetings and effectively do their jobs."
Walmer township community leader Mbulelo Tulumani said they planned to meet officials from the human settlements portfolio committee on Wednesday.
The meeting was meant to take place last Thursday but had been postponed to Wednesday, he said.
"We all agreed [the community and human settlements office] that by the time the next scheduled council meeting sits, we will have met and discussed the housing issue," he said.
Portfolio chairman ANC councillor Fikile Desi applied for leave as he was attending the political school in Fort Hare.
He said he was surprised and unhappy the meeting had not gone ahead.
"I really don't know what happened because I submitted my leave of absence for the whole week.
"I left everything to the officials and councillors to go ahead," Desi said.
"No one reported to me that there were no ANC councillors. I'm not happy because every meeting we have has a task. This just puts a burden on the following committee meeting because we will have to have a double agenda, and everybody knows I hate that," he said.
Speaker Maria Hermans said leave of absences might have been submitted to her office, but she was at the SA Local Government Association's Women's Commission in Johannesburg and could not confirm it.
"Penalties for non-attendance are enforced throughout for everyone, with no exception," Hermans said.
"Each case is treated on its merits and I can't say up-front if disciplinary action will be taken. I will apply the rules of council."
Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile's spokesman, Luncedo Njezula, said Walmer residents should rest assured the mayor and municipality were committed to implementing the service delivery plan.
Earlier this month, ANC councillors failed to pitch up at an economic development committee meeting. Two municipal public accounts meetings were also cancelled because there was no quorum.
In July, only five ANC councillors – Wayile, deputy mayor Nancy Sihlwayi, Hermans, chief whip Feziwe Sibeko and Mbongeni Bungane – pitched up for a full council meeting, after the ANC instructed councillors not to attend.