Only nine days to go to the day residents across the country get to choose who will develop, disappoint or dunk them for the next five years.

At face value the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) politics are seemingly robust, judging by a ballot paper which residents will be choosing their preferred candidates from.

The campaign trail ignites the memory of the historical floor-crossing days in the governance history of the Republic of South Africa, just short of the affirmation through votes, as required in this instance.

The hot race for the top seats in the 120 seat NMB council is between 15 political parties and 16 independent candidates, making a total of 31 contestants to choose from. 

Some of the independent candidates come from the ANC and DA — some are still serving councilors representing the wards in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The deliberations by the six contesting political parties in the hot seat with Dr Onkgopotse JJ Tabane, in the Power to Truth debate held in Gqeberha on Thursday night, revealed a clear need for fresh leadership to steer NMB in a positive direction.

Dr Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

The African National Congress was represented by its Regional Task Team Coordinator, Luyolo Nqakula. “Residents of the Nelson Mandela Bay MUST vote for the ANC,” demanded Nqakula in his opening statement. “They must vote for the ANC because the party has committed itself to a path of renewal.”

The Democratic Alliance’s Nqaba Bhanga said he is not fazed by the robust contestation in the Northern areas. “The real contest is between the DA and the ANC; all these other contestants will disappear after the elections and only appear when there are potholes in their communities. They will simply take a photo and post it on social media, and that’s as far as it goes,” said Bhanga.

Abantu Integrity Movement (AIM), led by one of the longest role players in the local political landscape, Mkhuseli Jack, believes he is the perfect candidate for the captain’s seat in the sinking ship called Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

A businessman leading a new political formation, Jack said he will make big changes in NMB: “The whole city, if you go into the CBD, is like a ghost town and war zone,” said Jack.

Citing  the numerous failures of the past leaders in the Metro, he said he will get his hands dirty from day one in office if he wins the upcoming election. Key to his planned priority interventions is this promise: “We will have a register of each and every little drug peddler roaming this city,” he said.

Congress of the People’s Mzwandile Nkonyeni offered a couple of ambiguous statements, with no committed statements on why the voters should choose COPE over all other contestants. Nkonyeni is, after the departure of Siyasanga Sijadu, going to join the DA, following her five-year stint with the DA-led coalition in the NMB.

Despite COPE having served the interests of the DA and failing to enhance their own agenda and support, Nkonyeni claims that they have grown as an organisation. “We have made a difference in policy changes,” he said.

New politician Shuling Lindoor, the mayoral candidate for the Patriotic Alliance, told the full male panel that they are failing to take ethnicity and gender balances seriously. “We are coming for you, the females are coming for you,” she warned.

Northern Alliance’s Gary Van Niekerk said his party will change the negligence of the former leaders of the Metro. Mainly formed as a combination break-away of the bigger parties – ANC, DA and PA — the NA said they are tired of waiting for recognition. “We will deal with our own issues of recognition; we will do it for ourselves,” said Van Niekerk.

These are views from just a fraction of the contestants in the campaign trail occupying the poles and streets of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. — Nosipiwo Manona

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