Port Elizabeth – A veil of secrecy has descended around President Jacob Zuma’s visit to the troubled Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
Speculation is rife that Zuma, who arrived in Nelson Mandela Bay on Sunday with his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa and other cabinet members, is in Nelson Mandela Bay to axe the municipality’s mayor, 83-year-old Benson Fihla.
Zuma and his delegation have been in a series of meetings since his arrival, but no information has been forthcoming on the nature of the meetings or what is being discussed.
Municipal spokesperson Roland Williams referred all media queries to ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.
However, Kodwa did not answer calls or respond to SMSes for comment.
Municipal councillors have also said that there has been very little information available around what was being discussed.
“Zuma is playing his cards very close to his chest. Right now I think he is the only one who knows what is coming,” said one ANC councillor.
“We have not been informed of any meetings or announcements, we are all waiting to find out what is going to happen,” said another.
Talks of Fihla’s pending dismissal have been circulating since the disbanding of the Regional Executive Committee in December.
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.
Zuma has already taken drastic steps to try and bring stability to the region after the disbandment of the ANC’s REC, selecting a 31-member regional task team and mandated them with rebuilding the ANC in the region.
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.
Ndoni’s name has been bandied about as the most likely candidate to replace Fihla.
He is a much liked public figure who has never aligned himself with any specific faction within the party.
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