The very first election for Councillors (then known as Commissioners) in Port Elizabeth occurred on 3 December 1847 and 8 residents were chosen to look after the wards of Baakens River, The Market, The Church, Kemp’s. J.O. Smith’s, Hartman’s, Toll and Hill.
These eight men were, until recently, the forerunners and example for all servants of the people as they in the words of the day were; “… good, competent men chosen by popular vote to carry on the business of the Municipality, whose office could be styled as unpaid labourers for the public good and sacrificing part of the time they might more profitably employ in their own private affairs or business and were therefore entitled to the full confidence of the people.”
It was a full 45 years later that the Port Elizabeth Municipality finally acquired a chain of office for the sitting mayor in 1892.
A chain of office or mayoral chain is an ornamental chain worn by mayors around their necks at official events as a sign of dignity. The mayor of every town or city in South Africa can acquire insignia reflecting the official emblem of that particular town or city. In time it became customary to attach the city’s coat-of-arms to the chain. Then the names of previous mayors were added and eventually it became customary to provide the mayoress and deputy mayor with chains. The Lord Mayor of London used it for the first time in 1545, but it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that it came into common use.
The wearing of Mayoral Chains first become common practice in the Cape Province and in Natal and from there it spread throughout the country. Cape Town acquired a chain of office in 1892, manufactured from 18 carat South African gold. Port Elizabeth acquired a chain of office in 1892, Durban in 1899 and Johannesburg in 1910. Today all big municipality’s have a chain of office for their Mayors.
It was whilst admiring the Mayoral Chains worn with a clear sense of pride by eThekwini Mayor, James Nxumalo (see: Durban’s Mayoral Chains here) that I realised that I cannot recall seeing any recent Port Elizabeth or Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor’s wearing the chains of office.
So whilst we try and find out what happened to the chains of office indulge yourself in a bit of speculation.
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