“We are praying for the downfall of corrupt officials from all walks of life,” said Methodist bishop Jacob Freemantle who spoke at the start of a silent protest outside the Nelson Mandela Bay City Hall on Wednesday.
Just over 40 people, representing churches, civil society, unions and business stood silently holding placards from 12pm to 1.3opm while their leaders spoke out against corruption, lack of service delivery and gender-based violence. A separate group of prayer warriors linked to Transformation Christian Network stood apart from the protesters so as not to infringe on the limit of 50 persons allowed in the picket. The prayer warriors covered the proceedings in prayer.
The placards said it all – with “Investigate and prosecute now!”; “Fix the streetlights”; “Fix the potholes”; “Stop violence against women and children” expressing the protesters’ disapproval. And “We love Nelson Mandela Metro” expressing their commitment to the city.
After opening the gathering with Job 5:12-13 and Luke 1:51-52 Bishop Jacob Freemantle said: “Lord we have come here to express our utter disgust and embarrassment in the unprecedented levels of corruption in this country and this metro.”
He prayed about the lack of service delivery, of the resources of the country drying up quickly and the self-centeredness of leaders who fight among themselves while citizens watch helplessly. He said the church leaders had come to align themselves with all concerned organisations and with all people of God “who are praying for the end of this scourge, cancer, and leprosy of corruption from all leaders”.
Apostle Neville Goldman on behalf of NMB Christian Network said they were there to reclaim their rightful place in the political, social and economic development of their beloved Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
“We love and are proud of our metro named after the great iconic leader and first president of a democratic South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,” he said.
Goldman also said the metro has been without a city manager since 2018 and a mayor since 2019. This situation must be rectified by the MEC of co-operative governance and traditional affairs [Cogta], the minister of Cogta and ultimately by the president of South Africa. He also called for the disclosure and blacklisting of directors, owners and individuals who have unfairly and fraudulently benefited from PPE tenders/contracts and all Covid-19 pandemic-related interventions.
A Cosatu representative pledged solidarity with saying “No” to gender-based violence, corruption and anything that hinders the delivery of PPEs.
Mzolisi Dyasi of Amaqhawe Ethu Foundation said that citizens have had enough of “the circus going on in this council” and that immediate action is demanded to bring about service delivery. People of the Northern Areas, the Southern and Western areas and the people of the townships must all feel that the municipality belongs to them, he said.
A former mayor “Oom Ben” Fihla said one of the problems was that the councillors don’t go to the people on the ground and hear what they are wanting because they are not leaders.