Senior leaders of churches in Nelson Mandela Bay met in the Port Elizabeth City Hall on Tuesday to urgently address the breakdown in governance in the metro where a council meeting could not be held last Thursday because of a lack of a quorum.
The church leaders reminded councillors of opposition parties who boycotted the meeting that they were betraying the mandate of voters who elected them to attend meetings where decisions need to be made in order to deliver services and tackle the core challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The boycotts follow the sacking of the UDM’s Mongameli Bobani as deputy mayor a month ago, and the Patriotic Alliance’s pullout from the DA-led coalition administration last week, which has left the coalition scrambling to secure a majority again and has led to party-political jockeying.
The church leaders called on councillors of all parties to act in the best interests of the people of Nelson Mandela Bay by attending the next scheduled council meeting. They committed to praying for all political leaders to resolve their differences for the sake of the citizens of the metro. And, citing Matthew 18, which deals with how Christians are required to go to the person with whom they have a difference to seek a resolution, they extended an invitation to the leaders of political parties to meet with a delegation of church and religious leaders to discuss the way forward.
Sounding a warning to the boycotting parties, the church group — who included leaders of mainline Christian denominations and large independent churches, representatives of the Metro Religious Unit, and a local Muslim leader who attended the meeting out of interest — said they reserved the right to go back to their congregants to get a mandate to deal with those leaders who do not put the interests of the people of the metro first. The warning, made in a press statement by the leaders, is a gentle reminder to politicians that churches have influence over many voters.
” We don’t wish for that [going to their members] and thus we appeal to all political leaders to work together and treat our people with great care and respect as the responsible leaders that they were elected to be,” continues the press statement.
In a reference to media reports of politicians making their return to council meetings conditional on the coalition meeting certain demands, the press statement says: “No party should make any demands for their return to council meetings. The Religious leaders confirmed their view that all disputes that cannot be resolved by negotiation, especially the criminal charges that were laid against the two councillors, due to an altercation in a council meeting earlier in the year, be dealt with by the courts of law, which is a basic principle of the rule of law. They reaffirmed their faith in the South African justice system.”
In a reference to concerns that the council impasse could result in the council being placed under administration by the Eastern Cape government, the church leaders’ statement says: “We are all aware of the challenges that can be presented to the governance of this Metro, if it is placed under administration and the religious leaders reiterated that they do not wish this to happen to Metro of Nelson Mandela. The religious leaders expect the political leaders to work together to focus on the triple challenges that confront our communities, namely, poverty, unemployment and inequality. These affect all of us, regardless of race, religion, culture and political affiliation.”
According to a local newspaper report, ANC leader in the council, Bicks Ndoni, denied claims the ANC was considering approaching Cogta to put the city under administration.
Both Ndoni, and the mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay Athol Trollip said they would also welcome any kind of intervention from religious leaders.
The leader’s press release is signed-off by:
Pastor Daan Botha: Harvest Christian Church
Dr Jimmy Crompton: Word of Faith
Pastor Zolile Dayimani: Chairperson Gqebera Ministers Fraternal
Pastor Patrick Douglas-Henry: Crossroads Christian Fellowship – AFM
Apostle Neville Goldman: Ebenezer International
Reverend Howard Hans: Chairperson Metro SACC
Pastor Lingelihle Jadezweni: RUCC-PE
Bishop Andile Mbete: Methodist Church of SA (Grahamstown District)
Reverend Danie Mouton: Director Synod Eastern Cape DRC
Reverend Sipho Ncapayi: Moderator Presbyterian Church (Central & Southern Cape)
Bishop Bethlehem Nopece: Anglican Church SA (PE Diocese)
Dr Dave Pedersen: Fountain Vineyard Church
Reverend Mongi Qupe: Chairperson MRU
Imam Shaik Salamntu: Islam Faith
Reverend Rory Spence: Greenacres Presbyterian Church
Pastor Russell Viljoen: Ebenezer North Community Church
Bishop Vincent Zungu: Catholic Diocese PE.