‘Lost control of our city manager’ — NMB mayor slams Noxolo Nqwazi for declaring his seat vacant
The leader of the National Alliance, Gary van Niekerk, who may or may not be the executive mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro at present, on Friday laid charges of corruption and fraud against the metro’s city manager after she declared his position and that of his fellow councillor, Stag Mitchell, vacant.
“We have lost control of our city manager,” the National Alliance’s Gary van Niekerk, who insists that he is still the mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, this morning wrote in a hard-hitting letter — just before he went to the police station to lay fraud charges against Dr Noxolo Nqwazi, after she had declared his and the seat of another member of the National Alliance, vacant earlier this week.
While opposition parties insist that Van Niekerk is no longer mayor, his chief of staff Vasu Padayachy said as long as Van Niekerk and his co-councillor Stag Mitchell remain on the IEC’s system they will continue with their work.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Nelson Mandela Bay mayor heads to court after city manager declares his seat vacant
The vacancies were declared on the strength of a letter written by a rival faction in the National Alliance insisting that the party membership of both Van Niekerk and Mitchell had been terminated after a disciplinary hearing on 6 October.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Avalanche of court cases loom after IEC gives National Alliance 35 days to fill Nelson Mandela Bay mayor’s seat
The IEC said this week that the National Alliance have 35 days to fill the vacancies declared by Nqwazi.
“As Council members, we have lost control of the metro and an administrator who has been governing,” Van Niekerk wrote this morning in a hard-hitting letter on an official letterhead from the mayor’s office, to Nqwazi.
He also warned senior municipal officials that “any executive director or municipal office bearer assisting the City Manager in performing any illegal actions will be charged with gross misconduct and insubordination and may face fraud charges as well knowing full well that this action is illegal.
On Monday Nqwazi had declared Van Niekerk’s seat and the seat of his fellow National Alliance councillor Stag Mitchell vacant after receiving a letter from a rival faction in their party that their party membership had been terminated.
Municipal manager under pressure
Nqwazi was arrested by the Hawks in October 2022 for her alleged role in the unlawful signing off on a R24-million tender for toilets in several informal settlements. The tender was awarded during the pandemic-related National State of Disaster.
She is standing trial with the metro’s former human settlements director Norman Mapu; Nelson Mandela Bay ANC regional secretary Luyolo Nqakula; businessman Xolani Masela and his spouse Nwabisa; and former DA councillors Trevor Louw, Neville Higgins and Victor Manyathi.
All have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
According to the charge sheet, the councillors were paid (sometime after their alleged assistance) to vote for a motion of no confidence in a previous DA mayor, Athol Trollip, in 2018.
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana withheld from the metro almost R800-million in grants and agreed to release the money only on condition that action be taken against Nqwazi, among other conditions. This decision was due to be taken on Thursday but following the latest political drama in the metro, this council meeting was postponed indefinitely.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Bad governance: Finance Minister orders withholding of R781m in government grants to Nelson Mandela Bay
Van Niekerk also laid charges of fraud and corruption against the members of this rival faction led by sitting councillor Bevan Brown and the party’s “other” president Japie Jansen as well as senior members of the rival faction.
In his missive fired off this morning Van Niekerk wrote to Nqwazi:
“The City Manager is aware that the National Alliance have internal challenges relating to the leadership of the party. The City Manager is aware of the National Alliance leadership, they are well known to her and the leadership has not changed.”
He added that the city manager was aware of the considerable number of rulings by the Gqeberha high court that confirmed the leadership of Van Niekerk’s faction.
Van Niekerk added that given the legal history of the matter the “city manager has chosen to act in a manner that is not only in direct contravention of the legislation, regulations, and case law… she has also chosen to do so to her direct benefit as an administrator.”
Van Niekerk further lamented in his letter that the City Manager was costing the metro “millions of rands in legal fees litigating on decisions she took as a political tool to keep herself in her position”.
“Your actions to illegally use municipal funds to further your own agenda is an act tantamount to fraud and will be reported as such. The action referred to above has broken the trust relationship between the office of the Mayor and yourself. As such and as the Executive Mayor I hereby instruct you to immediately withdraw and desist from all illegal instructions to any municipal office bearers including but not limited to Corporate Services, Secretariat and the Legal Department,” Van Niekerk added.
Van Niekerk is currently under investigation for fraud himself for allegedly illegally procuring legal services for the Office of the Speaker on a previous occasion when Nqwazi declared his seat vacant.
Nqwazi has not yet responded to a request for comment. DM