Church leaders urge president to intervene in Nelson Mandela Bay crisis

Nqaba Bhanga who was recently elected Executive Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay. The legality of his election has been challenged by the Eastern Cape COGTA MEC Xolile Nqatha

Senior church leaders in Nelson Mandela Bay sent an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa today urging him to intervene directly in the metro which they say is facing a potential law and order crisis due to a collapse in local governance.

The resultant instability in the major metropolitan hub in the Eastern Cape is exacerbating the ravages of Covid-19, poverty, unemployment, and other social evils facing NMB, say the leaders.

In the latest developments in the metro which has been without an elected mayor for a year, the Eastern Cape COGTA MEC Xolile Nqatha claims that the recent election of the DA’s Nqaba Bhanga as mayor is invalid — but Bhanga is adamant that he is the rightful mayor. The dispute is now reportedly going to be taken to court.

The full open letter to the president reads:

December 2020

Open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa from the senior church leadership of Nelson Mandela Bay

Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa

Urgent request for your direct intervention in Nelson Mandela Bay

We write this letter to you as senior church leaders of Nelson Mandela Bay on behalf of our congregants, who represent the majority of the suffering citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay.

Mr President, we implore you to urgently intervene in the malaise that has set in and taken root in our Metro.

While we are surrounded by death and disruption, fear, despair and economic contraction most recently caused by the merciless onslaught of Covid-19, governance in our metro has collapsed due to elected political representatives and municipal officials following their own agendas rather than focusing on the needs of the people.

Sectional politics, self-interest and blatant profiteering direct the political processes.

You will know that the metro was without a duly elected Executive Mayor, a full-time Municipal Manager and a number of other key appointments necessary to run a city effectively and honestly.

There is little local political support for the national drive to contain the spread of Covid-19. As senior church leaders we have first-hand experience of the increasing numbers of deaths, funerals and suffering due to Covid-19.

Our status as a hotspot is testament to the lack of attention given to the pandemic by the local governing authorities.

Additionally, we struggle with:

  • Grinding poverty and hunger. Jobs are being lost, not created in the metro. As churches we have had to design and implement an “Against Hunger” initiative to feed the poor and the marginalised because the municipality was failing in its duty to support the poor.
  • High incidences of gender-based violence
  • Drug abuse and rampant gangsterism, fuelled by unemployment and inequality
  • Rapidly deteriorating infrastructure and patently corrupt tendering processes
  • A cry for a democratically elected executive mayor and a permanent city manager to employ the full resources currently withheld by National Treasury.

Our attempts as community leaders to engage with the political leadership to ensure that our people experience the fruits of democracy and governance have had no impact on the rot in municipal politics.

Despite being named after our political icon, Tata Nelson Mandela, we have come to a fundamental distrust of the very governance structures which promised economic as well as political freedom.

The violation of our social and political compact reached a new pinnacle during the most recent council meeting.

We indeed are in a state of shock and disappointment at a disgusting council meeting unravelling on Friday 4 December 2020 when the metro was waiting with bated breath on the long-derailed election of a permanent executive mayor.

What has angered us most is not only the delaying tactics displayed in that, and previous meetings, but the undignified spectacle of the public “kidnapping” of the speaker of the council.

We urge you to ensure that the South African Police Services acts speedily on the matter.

The situation has continued to deteriorate despite the promises made at numerous meetings over the past year with the Premier of the Eastern Cape, the MEC of COGTA, the Speaker and the metropolitan political leadership.

If our initiatives had resulted in an urgent intervention by the Bhisho government on behalf of the collapsing metro, we would not be in this situation. Instead, the MEC of CoGTA, Hon Mr Nqatha, dragged his feet when we approached him to intervene.

Let us assure you, as the Church we do not favour any political party.

We are interested in sound governance and the rule of law. Although the council descended to an abhorrent new low at the meeting of 4 December, there was a ray of light.

After the horror and chaos calmed down, remaining council members elected a permanent mayor.

However, MEC Nqatha – who has been largely most noticeable by his failure to act for the people of Nelson Mandela Bay – was moved to publicly challenge the election.

This leads to unnecessary litigation, which once again detracts us from the task at hand. We appeal to you to ensure that political stability is maintained in the city.

An intervention to stabilise the metro could have been handled more effectively than the MEC sending a letter, which was effectively ignored by councillors.

The chaos, swearing, violence, filibustering and derailing of due process in council has the propensity to escalate and to spill over into the broader society.

There is the real danger of community protests becoming more and more violent, and the rule of law is under threat. We are killing the city.

Mr President, we call on you for immediate intervention to restore decorum and the rule of law in our council and metro.

Your attempts to attract investment into the country and to create jobs will be directly affected by your inaction as the industrial and commercial heart of the Eastern Cape will become a “no-go” area for investors.

Skilled people will continue to leave, with only the poor left behind to suffer.

We will continue to pray for your important leadership role and for God’s wisdom in executing your task.

Bishop Jacob Freemantle: Methodist Church of SA (Grahamstown Synod) (Chair of the Nelson Mandela Bay Church Leader Network on behalf of the Nelson Mandela Bay Church Leader Network)

The NMB Church Leader Network

Reverend William Blaauw: Chairman EPBA (Baptist Association)
Pastor Daan Botha:  Harvest Christian Church
Senior Pastor Richard Crompton: Word of Faith Christian Centre
Rev Dr Eddie Daniels: Anglican Bishop of SA (PE Diocese)
Bishop Jacob Freemantle: Methodist Church of SA (Grahamstown Synod) (Chair)
Reverend Andile George:  Moderator Presbyterian Church (Central & Southern Cape)
Apostle Neville Goldman:  Ebenezer International
Bishop Mvusi Gwam:  Bishop Kingdom Embassy Episcopal Church
Reverend Howard Hans: Chairperson Metro SACC
Dr Bukelwa Hans:  Provincial Vice President of the SACC
Pastor Mary-Rose Jacobs: Secretary NMB Religious Leaders Desk
Senior Pastor Lingelihle Jadezweni: RUCC-PE
Pastor Joan Keeling:  NMB Prayer Coordinator
Bishop Mlungiseleli Koliti:  Ethiopian Episcopal Church
Reverend Themba Mahuwa:  Branch Secretary SACC:  NMB Metro Branch
Reverend Danie Mouton:  Director Synod Eastern Cape DRC
Dr Dave Pedersen:  National Director Vineyard Churches SA
Pastor Richard Preston: New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI)
Pastor Russell Viljoen:  Ebenezer North
Pastor Johannes Welskit: Regional Leader EC AFM
Bishop Vincent Zungu:  Catholic Diocese PE

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