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VIDEO: NMBM council meeting ends with opposition walking out

By Charl Bosch - Mar 10, 2016
VIDEO: NMBM council meeting ends with opposition walking out

A special council meeting of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro descended into disarray on Wednesday when members of the Democratic Alliance (DA), United Democratic Movement (UDM) and Congress of the People (Cope), left the chamber in protest against the alleged failure by the African National Congress (ANC) to provide them with clarity after a caucus meeting.

The walkout came mere hours after Executive Mayor Danny Jordaan announced that the Metro would officially launch its much delayed police force next month, as well as a number of measures of crack down on water leaks and prevent the continuing backlog of refuse removal.

“It is our mandate to put the people first. As such, we are embarking on a service delivery audit to investigate the quality of service delivery in the Metro,” Jordaan said.

He stated that the police delay was mostly attributed to the lack of a suitable candidate, but that Metro had committed itself to have the force in operating order come April.

“You cannot fly a plane if you do not have pilot. We have the money, we have the plans we must just get the pilot and today we are putting in the executive director,” Jordaan said, adding that the municipality had build-up cash reserves of R1.7-billion so far.

“Our debt is currently standing at 13%, one of the lowest in the country. And we hope that by June, we would have done enough to obtain an unqualified audit. I have faith in this council that we can build a Nelson Mandela Bay in which he could live in and be proud off”.

Proceedings however turned heated minutes later when UDM councillor, Mongameli Bobani, accused the ruling party of purchasing loud speakers with municipal funds for ANC wards, and dealing out food parcels in township before the local government elections on May 18th.

Reminded by speaker Maria Hermans that he had gone over his allotted time, Bobani continued lashing out at Municipal Manager Johann Mettler, before telling Hermans, who had told him to stop, “I already stopped but you continued to talk”.

A shouting match ensued with Bobani eventually withdrawing the comment as wide-scale jeering from ANC benches rang out.

Speaking right after him, DA caucus leader Retief Odendaal said while the party supports Jordaan’s call of a prayer day to help alleviate the water crisis, “we have to put shoulder to the wheel and address water losses”.

“Parts of Uitenhage have been without water for two days. We need to fix our house when it comes to our water resources, and prove that we are the custodians of securing water,” Odendaal said.

He also took a swipe at Jordaan’s comments that the city would receive weekly refuse removal, saying the cash reserves were nothing to be proud of as “we only spent about 30% of our budget. We should be spending our money wisely and on budget related projects”.

Jordaan however hit back by accusing Odendaal of “making a lot of noise with no substance”, saying he been informed via SMS that water had been restored in Uitenhage, and that the crime rate in Nelson Mandela Bay was nowhere near that of the DA-run City of Cape Town.

“Independent research has shown that Cape Town is the most dangerous city in South Africa and the fifth highest in the world. We [in Nelson Mandela Bay] are not even close [to the crime rate in Cape Town. We don’t want your solutions to crime, we will sort it ourselves,” Jordaan remarked.

Tensions rose minutes later when DA councillor, Gustav Rautenbach, questioned whether water had really been restored, after party members allegedly received text messages from residents that water shutdowns were still being experienced.

His asking for clarity on the claims was subsequently rejected by Hermans, who stated she would not allow the debate to escalate any further.

Matters after a lengthy caucus discussion then descended into complete chaos after opposition parties complained that the meeting continued, without there being a multi-party discussion from the ruling party’s side.

A war of words about the ruling ensued which resulted in the parties leaving the chamber, mere minutes after taking their seats.

“Instead of the Chief Whip [of the ANC] coming back to us as per the multi-party agreement, they just decided to continue with the meeting. The Chief Whip acted in bad faith with the opposition,” a visibly annoyed Bobani told the media outside the chamber.

“This meeting cannot continue without all the parties’ agreeing, but it would seem that the Speaker has decided this must change”.

Addressing the journalist at an impromptu briefing, Odendaal stated that Jordaan had been misleading the people on the water crisis, and that the Metro’s slashing of its maintenance budget by R123-million, could be blamed for the escalating crisis.

“Large parts of the Metro have been without water since Sunday due to burst pipes, which the Metro’s plumbing teams seem incapable of fixing because they are understaffed and underequipped by this ANC government,” he said.

“[Water and Sanitation] Minister [Nomvulu] Mokonyane's imaginary "War on Leaks" and the inability for the Metro to train the necessary amount of plumbers, is resulting in catastrophic service delivery failures, of which this water crisis is one”.

He also accused Hermans of deliberately “showing her blatant bias” towards the ruling party by not allowing points of order to be taken, saying the party would submit an application to the MEC of Local Governance to have her conduct investigated.