Port Elizabeth – In a hastily convened press conference on Monday afternoon, the ANC announced that no reshuffling of Nelson Mandela Bay political deployments will take place on Monday.
Speculation had been rife that President Jacob Zuma, who arrived in Nelson Mandela Bay on Sunday with his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa and other cabinet members, was in the metro to axe the municipality’s mayor, 83-year-old Benson Fihla.
ANC National spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said Zuma had travelled to Nelson Mandela Bay to review the work of a 31-person task team that had been established to rebuild ANC structures in the region following the disbanding of the Regional Executive Committee last year December.
Led by veteran ANC MP and former defence minister Charles Nqakula, the regional task team includes former MECs Thobile Mhlahlo and Dennis Neer, former deputy mayor Bicks Ndoni, and former Eastern Cape health boss and Uitenhage businessman Dr Siva Pillay.
“Zuma and the other members have met with the various structures throughout the day yesterday [Sunday] and are very happy with the progress that has been made by the task team,” Kodwa said.
Zuma and his delegation have also been in a number of meetings today [Monday] relating to a much anticipated report on the state of the municipality from Cooperative Governance Minister Pravin Gordhan, following months of investigations by national government.
Kodwa said the report’s findings, as well as the details from the last two days visit, would be reported back to the ANC’s National Executive Committee.
“The NEC will take this feedback under advisement and will then return to the municipality on the 17th of May,” he said.
Kodwa said the NEC would then announce any possible changes to political as well as administrative positions within the municipal structures on May 18.
“No decision can be taken with regards to any changes until it has been discussed with the NEC,” he said.
The ANC-led municipal leadership has battled with political instability and factional infighting, and, should Fihla be axed, it would see a fourth mayoral incumbent in Nelson Mandela Bay in the space of six years.
In 2009, Nondumiso Maphazi was fired as Mandela Bay mayor and replaced by Zanoxolo Wayile, who in turn was fired in 2013 and replaced by Fihla.
The possible reshuffle comes at a critical time, with the ANC fully aware of the challenges they have ahead of the general elections next year.
Former Deputy Mayor Ndoni’s name has been bandied about as the most likely candidate to replace Fihla in the event of a shuffle.
He is a much liked public figure who has never aligned himself with any specific faction within the party.