In the build-up to the 2016 Local Government Elections, we made the same promises to people wherever we campaigned. And those promises were that, if we were to be voted into government, we would improve service delivery to poor residents, we would root out corruption and we would bring growth and jobs to these communities.
We promised people a clean break from the corruption, the waste and the unaccountability of their incumbent ANC local governments. And we told them that we wanted to be held to our election pledge. Wherever I campaigned I said: If the DA fails to live up to its promises, then people must use their votes to fire us. And I meant these words.
Fast-forward to immediately after the elections, when the results in several metros put the possibility of coalition governments on the table. In our negotiations with other parties – and ultimately in our coalition agreement with them – we reiterated our election pledge to the people, and we made it very clear that honouring these promises would be our non-negotiable condition for co-governance. We were (and still are) prepared to work with all parties, as long as they shared our core commitments to end corruption, deliver services and create jobs. We would not tolerate a corrupt coalition partner or one that put our ability to deliver services at risk.
The behaviour of Councillor and Deputy Mayor Mongameli Bobani of the UDM, over almost the entire period our coalition government has been in office in Nelson Mandela Bay, was aimed at disrupting the council on which he served and preventing it from doing its work. This started from the get-go, when he refused to give up the VIP blue lights in his vehicle. This made him the only person in all DA-run cities or DA-led coalitions to break the agreement on blue light vehicles.
From the start Councillor Bobani’s intention was to sabotage the operation of the Nelson Mandela Bay government. There is no other explanation for repeatedly voting with the ANC and against the coalition government. There is no other explanation for laying baseless charges against the City Manager and the Executive Director of Corporate Services. There is no other explanation for holding his own parallel State of the City event.
And then there is the prima facie evidence, contained in two separate independent forensic reports, of maladministration, fraud and tender irregularities that occurred within departments under Councillor Bobani’s authority. These reports state that the instructions for the actions in question came from the Deputy Mayor’s office. They also recommend that the Metro attempt to recover the missing funds and take criminal action against those involved.
Furthermore, Councillor Bobani voted against the establishment of a Women’s Caucus Committee. He also voted against a Jobs Desk, which was planned for the Mayor’s Office, which had targeted 20,000 youth jobs over the next three years.
Any one of these incidents would be grounds for removal from his post. Together, his position becomes truly indefensible. Yet the UDM’s national leadership under Bantu Holomisa refused to budge, threatening first to pull out of the coalition – a threat they have since back-tracked on – and later to take the DA to court in order to have Councillor Bobani reinstated. Sadly, the communication from the UDM has become racially divisive, which contradicts the core values of our co-government project.
But this is where it is important to remember the DA’s position on coalition governments: We’re only in it for the people. The only reason we hold office in the metros is to speed up delivery, eradicate corruption and open opportunities for people. We’re not there to govern at all cost. If any of our coalition partners insist on making these metros ungovernable, we must draw a line in the sand. And it is important that our partners realise this too. Because if they think you’re prepared to govern at all cost, they can and will put you in an impossible position.
It is deeply regrettable that Councillor Bobani has been given free reign by his party to wreak havoc in the Nelson Mandela Bay Council. We have tried over the past eight months to resolve the issue, and we will continue to do so. But this does not alter our position: We will not allow our own values, our own integrity and our promise to voters to be sacrificed.